Have you ever considered that food policy is the modern diet’s foundation? The government doesn’t subsidize fruits and vegetables much. They reserve handouts for farms that grow crops for livestock feed, biofuels, and industrial use, and those that raise livestock for meat and dairy livestock. So, only 2% of farmland in the United States produces the important food groups… fruits and vegetables.
But Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer is on a mission to change this out of kilter food policy. His vision of the next omnibus bill is radical; improving nutrition and farming opportunities. Blumenauer’s Farm Bill 2018 shows a better approach than handing dairy, meat, animal feed, and fuel farms 95% of farm subsidy funding.
Worse still, most of that goes to the farms that need it the least. The top 1%, the largest, most successful farms take home $1.7 million apiece annually. Which is key to the reason so few young people enter farming today, and an excess of grains fill plates while a shortage of locally grown produce rages. Subsidies feed the “get big or get out” movement in farming, and that keeps Big Ag happy and GMO labeling nonexistent. Meanwhile, it puffs up your tax bill considerably, leaving the average person with less money to spend on food.
Our Food policy needs a radical change, and Blumenauer introduced his vision during the discussion among legislators on November 16th when he presented his Food and Farm Act on Capitol Hill. Will a kerfuffle follow? Just because there’s no chatter in the news doesn’t mean alternatives to fat Big Farm subsidies will go down smoothly. It’s early days yet and the holiday season has everyone occupied with gifting, family, and feasting.
State Level Food Policy
There are other recent changes in food policy of interest outside of Washington D.C. Wyoming, North Dakota, and Maine all recently passed various forms of food regulation bills.
Wyoming led the way with their Food Freedom Act becoming law in 2015. It removes the need for permits and inspection for farm fresh and homemade foods and supports the state’s cottage food industry. Products must bear clear notice for consumers that they lack inspection, but must also comply with food safety standards. Farms can butcher their own poultry and sell it consumer direct if it’s less than 1,000 birds a year. Red meats still require state and federal regulation.
Like Wyoming, North Dakota’s new Food Freedom laws that passed this summer involve only intrastate cottage food sales. It also includes the sale of eggs that haven’t been candled. Maine’s new food policy legislation, however, drew ire from the USDA. While it also supports food freedoms like the right to buy raw milk from a local farm, the first food sovereignty law in the country went too far for the feds. The original allowed a city or town to regulate local food, regardless of other state and federal regulations.
Needless to say, Gov. Paul LePage wasted no time in fixing the wording to state things that left federal regulations applicable. Particularly, slaughter and processing of meats and poultry. It was either that or loss of the state’s inspection program and the facilities they’ve invested in building over the last 14 years.
LePage signed Maine’s corrected Food Sovereignty Bill into law on November 1st. And according to Civil Eats on that date, Senator Troy Jackson felt quite sure that the new wording would pass USDA scrutiny. Since no further chatter erupted, things are looking good for Maine’s meat and poultry industry here in mid-December. Still, Maine doesn’t have true food sovereignty. Because they’re missing an important ingredient, people’s “right to define their own food and agriculture systems.” It’s the second half of the term’s definition according to Wikipedia.