Farming the Future: What's in the Crystal Bill? The MidOuest Ouiji Board
Yesterday, the one and only Wednesday, June 20, 2012, the Senate bestirred itself and moving with rarely-seen speed and efficiency (Maybe it was all that ‘sugar’ in the campaign tea pots…) and approved a pair of amendments. The well-meant Byzantium written by Ron Wyden , as the chamber finished work on a sprawling farm bill
One amendment would set up "pilot projects" to encourage school districts to purchase locally produced food. The other gives the federal Department of Agriculture authority to make micro-loans to "gleaners." Wyden says that both would increase the availability of healthy produce to schools and consumers.
But wait...What's this? As in the past, the old positions held as the Senate voted not to tamper with the Depression-era program that protects U.S. sugar growers.
The sugar program, which controls supply levels, sets prices and limits imports, has long been a target of those who say the government supports agribusiness over the interests of consumers.
So goes the official statement: “This amendment will give innovative states with established farm to school infrastructure the ability to buy locally, support their own communities and help to make their children’s meals healthier.”
The micro-loan provision opens a USDA program to gleaners, who salvage un-picked or damaged food from fields that can still be consumed. The loans range from $500 to $5,000, would be used to purchase equipment such as refrigerators or vehicles needed to assistant and expand the gleaners' work.
The action on Wyden's amendments came after the Senate passed a separate measure written by Jeff Merkley, that would make it easier for organic farmers to enroll in federal crop insurance programs.
The amendments by Wyden and Merkley were small pieces in a larger bill that governs everything from the amount of subsidies farmers can receive to nutrition standards that shape almost every meal. And Wow! How these meals have shaped Americans! The sugar industry need only look out the window of that big corner office and observed the employees parking lot to confirm that their every wish has come to pass.
The sugar vote was one of the few remaining contentious issues as the Senate worked through some 73 amendments to the 1,000-page measure that establishes safety nets for farmers, authorizes conservation programs and funds the food stamp program.A final vote is expected Thursday morning, sending it to the House where it could face an uphill battle. While the Senate bill cuts $23 billion from current spending levels over the next decade, the Republican-led House would really like to takke a slash at the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, food stamps, which costs $80 billion a year and makes up 80 percent of farm bill spending. The current farm act expires at the end of September.
- Length: 16:21 minutes (7.48 MB)
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