The 2014 Farm Bill was passed by congress just a few weeks ago and it’s sparked some interesting conversations around the Sweet Roots space. We’ll spare you the nitty gritty details of the 900+ page document. Here are a few key tidbits, so that you’re on the ball when your dining companion asks you to pass the Atlantic Spiny Dogfish.
- “It isn’t really a bill just for farmers, it really should be called the food bill because it is the rules for the food system we all eat by.” - Michael Pollan
Even if Union Square is the closest you’ve been to a farm in years, the Farm Bill has more to do with your day-to-day than you’d imagine. From grocery prices and SNAP eligibility to fresh produce in school lunches and general nutrition guidelines, the bill manages to cover a lot of ground.
- Speaking of ground: this year’s bill allocates eight times more subsidies to commodity crop farms than specialty crop farms. What’s the big deal? Farmers of so-called specialty crops, which include fruit, vegetables, and nuts, lose out while farmers of commodity crops - corn, rice, cotton, and soy - reap billions of dollars in government funds. Given that commodity are the basic building blocks for junk food, this is likely to stretch wallets of those who shop the produce aisle and the waistlines of those who don’t.
- Now you see it, now you don’t: Under tremendous pressure to cut costs, policy makers slashed the direct payment program which represented a projected $40.8 billion dollars in subsidies. That sounds impressive - except for the fact that $27.2 billion of those dollars found their way back into the bill in the form of “insurance” against falling prices. That means more money in the troughs of Big Ag and precious little leftover for the kinds of small, organic farms we support.
- Don’t look so sad: Conservationists are celebrating new rules that will link federal financial support to compliance with protocols that protect the land. “We are particularly pleased that the final bill includes a critical provision to prevent soil erosion and conserve our nation’s priceless wetlands, both of which will protect water quality for people and wildlife,” said Julie Sibbing of the National Wildlife Federation.
Want to dig a bit deeper? Here's a link to a comprehensive overview of the 2014 Farm Bill. If you're eager to read the whole thing for yourself, be our guest - you can find the full text of the bill here.