Blumenauer Convenes Fiscal Hawks, Food and Agriculture Policy Experts, Environmentalists, Animal Welfare Advocates, Others to Call for Farm Bill Reform
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) today brought together a broad range of experts and stakeholders for a forum, “A Call for Reform: Fix the Farm Bill,” focusing on the need to create a more visionary, equitable, and cost-effective Farm Bill. The forum featured a keynote address by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food.
“For the sake of our farmers, planet, fiscal sanity, and our health, we can’t afford to continue the status quo. We saw firsthand today that there is a growing movement to improve our food and farm policy for all Americans,” said Blumenauer. “It’s time Congress pays attention to what the people want and reforms the Farm Bill now.”
“Historically, the farm bill has been treated as a very parochial, special-interest piece of legislation,” Michael Pollan said. “But in fact, it is the most important piece of health legislation likely to pass next year as well as the most important piece of environmental legislation likely to pass next year. That means everyone—farmers as well as eaters—has a stake in this issue, and is why it is time to bring forward this Food and Farm Act, which for the first time in decades re-envisions food policy from the bottom up.”
Hopelessly complex and expensive, the Farm Bill currently prioritizes federal investments in our food and farm system that favors large-scale commodity growers at the expense of rural and urban America. With the Farm Bill set to expire in 2018, Blumenauer’s forum aimed to bring together the diverse, yet overlapping, interests of farmers, food policy experts, fiscal hawks, environmentalists, nutrition stakeholders, and animal welfare advocates, to discuss their ideas for reform.
In addition to Michael Pollan’s keynote remarks, the forum featured a panel discussion with an all-star group of policy experts: Ricardo Salvador, Senior Scientist and Director, Food & Environment Program, Union of Concerned Scientists; Suzanne McMillan, Farm Animal Campaign Content Director, ASPCA; Scott Faber, Vice President of Government Affairs, Environmental Working Group; Monica Mills, Executive Director, Food Policy Action; Wayne Pacelle, CEO and President, Humane Society of the United States; Ryan Alexander, President, Taxpayers for Common Sense; and Bill Wenzel, Food and Farming Program Director, U.S. PIRG.
Introduction of the Food and Farm Act
At the event, Blumenauer also announced the introduction of his comprehensive alternative Farm Bill. This legislation, the Food and Farm Act, advances Farm Bill reforms based on four principles: (1) focusing resources on those who need it most; (2) fostering innovation; (3) encouraging investments in people and the planet; and (4) ensuring access to healthy foods.
The Food and Farm Act will:
- Cut, cap, and clarify the existing farm subsidy programs that are available in the commodity, conservation, and crop insurance titles of the Farm Bill;
- Reform existing conservation programs by distributing resources based on how effectively a project achieves conservation goals and minimizes environmental impact;
- Give greater flexibility to food assistance programs, allowing the United States the ability to feed more people in more places;
- Invest resources to expand access to healthy food in underserved areas, in schools, and at farmers’ markets;
- Provide support for beginning farmers and ranchers to enter and stay in the agriculture sector;
- Establish the first Food Waste Title of the Farm Bill to focus the federal government on food waste reduction;
- Invest in research and education programs that improve sustainable agriculture practices;
- Establish the first Animal Welfare Title in the Farm Bill to ensure that the treatment of animals is a central part of the country’s agriculture policy; and
- Invest in existing programs and create new initiatives that support vibrant local and regional food systems.
“For decades the Farm Bill has ignored vital animal welfare needs and incentivized a callous industrial agriculture model that has brought unnecessary suffering on billions of farm animals,” said Matt Bershadker, President and CEO, ASPCA. “The ASPCA commends Congressman Blumenauer for envisioning not only a better Farm Bill, but also a better food system in the United States. For the sake of vulnerable farm animals and on behalf of responsible farmers and conscientious consumers, we encourage Congress to include the more humane measures outlined in the Food and Farm Act while drafting the next Farm Bill.”
“We need a Farm Bill that provides a strong safety net for farmers but that also meets America’s big hunger and public health challenges, including drinking water pollution. The status quo is not working. Too many rural communities get tap water contaminated with farm chemicals and too many kids are going to bed hungry. Meanwhile, some of the wealthiest households in American receive millions in farm subsidies. This bill provides a road map to a Farm Bill that help farmers weather the ups and down of agriculture while also addressing hunger and health,” said Ken Cook, President and Co-Founder of Environmental Working Group.
“Congressman Blumenauer's Food and Farm Act is the result of an unprecedented effort to listen to Oregon's family farmers and ranchers and seek their input in crafting important legislation that affects all Americans," said Ivan Maluski, Policy Director for Friends of Family Farmers in Salem, Oregon. “This bill would enact long-overdue Farm Bill reforms to support small and mid-sized family farms, advance public health and new investments in local and regional food systems, strengthen rural and urban economic viability, and promote animal welfare and the protection of our shared natural resources.”
“Our food system is out of balance, and food should not be a partisan issue,” said Monica Mills, Executive Director of Food Policy Action. “Together, we can make access to healthy food more inclusive for all Americans, ending malnutrition and hunger. To that end, we must protect SNAP and make our food system more balanced.”
“We commend Rep. Earl Blumenauer for introducing this legislation to build a more humane and sustainable agricultural economy that provides nourishing, affordable food to Americans and people throughout the world,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “This bill provides opportunities to help consumers and family farmers, but also animals, since they are at the center of the enterprise. All animals deserve humane treatment.”
“Taxpayers for Common Sense applauds Mr. Blumenauer for spearheading this critical conversation on the federal farm bill. By many measures, Washington is broken. The complex, convoluted, and increasingly costly farm bill is a shining example of what today’s broken legislative process will produce. Mr. Blumenauer’s efforts to engage everyone from farmers, to environmentalists, to fiscal conservatives in developing a farm bill that works for Oregon, is a process we need repeated in Ohio, in Oklahoma, and ultimately in our nation’s capital. Today needs to be just one of many conversations to bring more people to the farm bill negotiating table in order to make a farm bill that works for everyone,” said Ryan Alexander, President of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
“Existing farm policy largely ignores consumer interests in sustainably produced foods to prop up and support farming practices and systems that have real downsides for the environment and the public health,” said Bill Wenzel, Food and Farm Program Director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). “By eliminating the preferential treatment of commodity producers and factory farm livestock and poultry producers in farm support programs, reforming conservation programs to ensure that the taxpayer gets environmental bang for the buck and investing in sustainable food production businesses and infrastructure, the Food and Farm Act provides new opportunities for farmers and farming systems that are good for the environment and the public health.”
Blumenauer’s legislation is the result of his Sing Your Own Farm Bill project, a multi-year effort to engage a wide variety of stakeholders in creating a more visionary, equitable, and cost-effective Farm Bill. As part of this project, Blumenauer has met with agricultural researchers, farmworkers, nutrition advocates, conservation interests, winemakers, nurseries, wheat growers, small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers, processors, agricultural policy advocates, and more. Together, they have brainstormed how federal agricultural policies could be best shaped to meet Oregon’s distinct and varied needs. Blumenauer’s legislation includes policy priorities that have grown out of this feedback. Click here to read Blumenauer’s report, “Growing Opportunities: Reforming the Farm Bill for Every American.”