Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Farm Bill and CA Urban Agriculture

Hi All,

Hope you are enjoying the last lovely days of Spring. There is much going on in the world of politics and legislative effort in the food realm. What is particularly interesting is that the budget game of chicken the House and Senate Republicans inflicted on the American people has really wrecked havoc on the Farm Bill. (I am a proud member of the California Green Party so please do not call me partisan) The United States Farm Bill is reauthorized every five years, and was up last year at this time. For many reasons, none of them rational, it got tabled till now. Mix all this in with sequestration ( cue for dis-harmonic horror movie organ music jingle) and wow, this is going to be an epic food fight.

With the advent of social media, cspan and 24/7 punditry, oops, I meant news, it is amazing to me personally that something so crucial to our national security. (food, remember the French and Russian revolutions, no food makes the populace REALLY angry) Agriculture news is almost absent from the media, unless someone gets sick from organic lettuce. The Farm bill provides funding for things like food assistance to the poor, crop subsidies, farm land preservation, rural farming development and research. Guess what is on the sequestration chopping block? Farmland and environmental preservation and food assistance to the poor. What is absent from the discussion of the morality of taking food out of the mouths of the hungry and poor in our nation, (when we waste 40% of what we produce and seem always to have billions of dollars to invade other countries or blow them up with drones, but that is fodder for another blog post) is that each dollar spent from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) AKA food stamps, brings in almost $1.50 of community spending to a local economy. Do I hear good investment? Keeping people fed and avoiding revolutions and food riots are always good ideas for maintaing civil society. SNAP is a subsidy that actually benefits all farmers and grocery stores and increases profits in a community. Just think, no drones, no blowing people up, just feeding them and making local economies stronger at a fraction of the cost of the mis-adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/outreach/pdfs/bc_facts.pdf

Cutting funds to help preserve farm land and for environmental protection, well that is obviously stupid. Well maybe it is a good idea to help our obesity rate in the US, but cutting off any possibility of raising food in the future. But what can I say, consider the source. What is interesting, is that it seems the stalling on the farm bill might have gone on indefinitely, but so many people, real people, pushed the issue with their calls, emails, letters and visits to their representative.  As a result of American citizens pushing, Congress decided to stop repealing Obamacare after 38 tries and the Senate is debating the  Farm Bill for the next few days. So it is REALLY important that you call EVERYONE!

Here are some suggestions

Here is a link on the Pollinator Protection Amendment, introduced by California Senator Barbara Boxer

In the lovely state of California, who has the worlds fourth largest Agricultural economy, food is big business. Thank goodness, there are so many sustainably minded people who are electing similar politicians in the state. In the show, I discussed a new California Assembly Bill 551 which is promoting Urban Agricultural Incentive Zones http://www.sfuaa.org/-urban-ag-incentives-zone-act.html With most of the worlds populations migrating into the cities, and less and less land available for farming, it is very important to develop Urban Agriculture. There are even businesses that are springing up where you can hire urban farmers to plant gardens in your front or back yard and tend it like a landscape gardener, they call it "food - scaping"Problem is, under many local and state ordinances, it is a crime to grow food in your front lawn, or sell your produce directly to the public. This bill would allow people to develop agriculture initiatives without having to go to jail if they sell their tomatoes at a fruit stand. Extra plus, tax breaks for property owners who do this, and in places like San Francisco and Los Angeles, that would not only bring a solution to food accessibility in urban places, ease tax burdens, but also would create opportunities for economic independence . What a concept. For you California People, here's how to find your representative

As is the case with any California legislation, how California goes, so goes the nation. If we can start this here, it will spread. A really great magazine and website, I actually interviewed them last year, and LOVE the publication is Urban Farm http://www.urbanfarmonline.com/ Check it out!

So, please pay attention. With the increased demand for locally and sustainably produced agricultural products, and the vital necessity of preserving the land that feeds us, please, call, write or visit your representatives today. If we the people actually made our government work for us, instead of letting big businesses who do not pay taxes, do not want to pay their employees fair wages, and want to own our food supply buy our democratic process. Really, it is simple math. There are more of us than them. Call today! And keep listening to Real Food Empire on http://www.blogtalkradio.com/real-food-empire/2013/06/04/the-farm-bill-and-ca-urban-agriculture

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