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The Farm Bill: Why It Matters and What You Can Do About It

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January 27, 2012

By Julia DeGraw, Food & Water Watch Northwest Organizer

Our current food system is broken, and it didnít happen by accident. Decades of bad food policy designed to benefit agribusinesses and mega-farms, combined with unchecked corporate merges, have wreaked havoc on family farmers, public health, and rural communities.

No one tends to disagree with the above statements, but what many donít know is that most of whatís wrong with the system goes back to the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is a huge piece of legislation that determines how food is grown, bought, and sold in this country. Itís reauthorized every four years, and itís up for reauthorization in 2012.

Just because itís broke doesnít mean we canít fix it, though. Historically the Farm Bill helped to bank grains in surplus years, helped thousands of farmers determine how much of what to plant each year, and ensured competition in the system that made for a fair price for growers and eaters alike. It also helped make up for uncertainties in the food system, such as weather. We can make the Farm Bill work for farmers and eaters once again.

Hereís what a better Farm Bill would look like:

For you (the eater!):

  • Better choices: Breaking up the agribusiness monopolies will bring a more vibrant marketplace.
  • Stable prices: Restoring common-sense practices like agricultural reserves can prevent speculation from driving up food prices.
  • Increased access to healthy food: More families will have easy access to healthy foods they can afford.
  • Stronger local infrastructure: Reversing the consolidation in the food system would allow for more local businesses.

For Farmers:
  • A level playing field: A fair marketplace for small farmers cannot exist without breaking up the agribusiness monopolies.
  • Fair Markets: Farm pricing and contract policies can ensure that all producers receive enough from their sales or services to provide a fair return.

For the environment:
  • Environmental stewardship: Conservation programs can improve biodiversity, minimize pollution, and conserve essential resources.
  • Sustainable farming: Independent farmers will receive support to help them shift to more diversified operations.

If you want to be part of making a fairer Farm Bill, visit Food & Water Watchís Farm Bill Action Center online at

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