"Will the next Farm Bill, scheduled for passage in 2012, put public policy in service of a food system that works for farmers, eaters, and the environment?
Well, optimism over federal food-policy reform never runs very high in sustainable-ag circles. The agrichemical lobby is flush with cash and friends in Congress and the White House. But the current budget fight is making a bleak situation look downright disastrous. It’s looking like the looming budget deal will slash funding for the few programs that currently counteract the Big Ag policy agenda.
And while the current fight only involves fiscal 2011 funding, what emerges from it will set the “baseline” for funding in the coming Farm Bill, Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), told me in a phone conversation. Many of the USDA programs heralded by the Obama administration under the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, which are designed to expand access to fresh food and link farmers to local markets, are on the chopping block, Hoefner told me, as are ag conservation programs that give farmers incentives to consider other goals besides just maximizing production of a few commodities. The sustainable-food movement has put together the initiatives through decades of grassroots organizing and low-budget lobbying, and they are in danger of seeing their budgets cut for years to come."