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The Farm Bill's Changes
The good, the bad, and the ugly

Some good changes for the future bill
It seems like the House Agriculture Committee is finally getting the hint, and is gearing up for a serious overhaul for the 2012 Farm Bill. Collin Peterson, the House Agriculture Committee Chairman said, “I think it will be very difficult to pass a status-quo farm bill in 2012”. The 2008 Farm Bill mostly followed the status-quo of the bills that preceded it. In addition to an active base supporting change, what else should change this time?

Peterson hopes that by July 2011, the House version of the 2012 Farm Bill will be written. This gives the House Agriculture Committee ample time to revise and improve the bill before handing it off to Congress to be passed.

Aimee Witteman at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) also believes that change is essential. She said, “the biggest winners from our existing farm policies are not farmers or consumers, but agribusiness companies that benefit from cheap feed inputs and unenforced antitrust regulations”.

Powerful agribusiness corporations and the wealthiest farmers give far more in campaign contributions. These special interests are then given most of the benefits - at our expense - until we the people speak out for reform.

Some bad changes
Activists have been urging Congress and the Obama Administration to reform the food stamp, school lunch and other federal food program requirements. These now make up 75% of the USDA budget.

In response, farmers who appeared before the congressional committee protested Obama Administration proposals to cut USDA programs which farmers depend on to help support crop prices.

Are there easier and cheaper ways to solve these issues without using up 75% of the USDA budget? The answer is yes.

How to improve it
An improved farm bill will help Americans eat healthier within budget. Eating healthier and stretching a dollar is a lot easier for than it may seem. Americans tend to stick to fast food and processed food because it is cheaper and easier.

Some of the healthiest, most nutrition-rich foods are also cheap and easy to find. These include frozen produce, eggs, beans, brown rice, milk, dry beans, canned fish, carrots, potatoes, canned tomatoes, and nuts.

There are also many options on how to get more for one’s money. Changing shopping habits is another key way to help stretch the food dollar. People could watch sales, make a food list based on the sale items, and clip coupons.

Another way to help get more from food money is to make some changes in food options and focus on getting more healthy foods from the money being spent. Easy changes that everyone can make are buying produce in season, fixing soups and stews, buying in bulk, cutting down on alcohol, and switching from brand names to generic store brands.

Easy, simple changes can help Americans live better and healthier.


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by Jen Picariello, Hearts & Minds volunteer
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