Saturday, June 18, 2011

House bill would cut food assistance programs, protect farm subsidies

According to the Associated Press summary, the appropriations bill passed by the Republican-led House of Representatives would cut WIC and international food aid, while protecting most farm subsidies.

The AP report said the bill:
  • Directs the Agriculture Department to rewrite rules it issued in January meant to make school meals healthier. Republicans say the new rules, the first major overhaul of school lunches in 15 years, are too costly.
  • Forces USDA to report to Congress every time officials travel to promote the department’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” program, which supports locally grown food, and discourages the department from giving research grants to support local food systems. Large agribusiness has been critical of the department’s focus on these smaller food producers [note: see earlier post for context].
  • Prevents USDA from moving forward with new rules that would make it easier for smaller farmers and ranchers to sue large livestock companies on antitrust grounds. The proposed rules are meant to address the growing concentration of corporate power in agriculture.
  • Delays for more than a year new rules for reporting trades in derivatives, the complex financial instruments blamed for helping precipitate the 2008 financial crisis. A Republican amendment adopted Thursday would require the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which funded in the bill, to first have other rules in place to facilitate its collection of derivatives market data.
  • Prevents the FDA from approving genetically modified salmon for human consumption, a decision set for later this year.
  • Questions the scope of Obama administration initiatives to put calories on menus and limit the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.
The tart AP article was mentioned in our comments section recently, and was covered by Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution under the rueful headline, "Not from the Onion."

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