Compared to some of the food and agriculture lobbies debating farm subsidies and food stamps, we were a small team working on small issues. But to many people, the local procurement victory [allowing school lunch programs to request locally grown foods from their suppliers] is a significant one. The ability of school food service directors to request local foods opens up great opportunities for local food systems. Schools can be important customers for small farmers. And schools that try to link local agriculture with their curricula have greater success when students can make a field trip to a local farm and then eat that farm’s apples (rather than ones shipped in from across the country) in the school cafeteria.From my column:
Mind you, political theater can be entertaining. On the last day of debate, Republicans claimed to be surprised that part of the farm bill’s funding would come from a tax increase. The response from Charlie Rangel, Democrat of New York and chairman of the House’s taxwriting committee, was sarcastic. He reminded the critics that they had agreed to ask Rangel’s committee to find the additional money. “You didn’t go to the chairman of the Transportation Committee,” Rangel admonished them.
But after the chuckles die down, we have to wonder whether the right questions were asked about farm policies themselves. The 700-page farm bill authorizes nearly every aspect of federal policy administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, from food stamps to conservation to farm subsidies to rural development, at a cost of about $286 billion over five years. It seems there should be more there to discuss than whether a funding source should be called a tax.