Monday, April 30, 2007

Why Care about the Farm Bill?

Congress is set to make key decisions in the 2007 Farm Bill that will have far-reaching impacts on food and the environment. edible San Francisco writer Bonnie Azab Pwell interviews Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) co-founder Ralph Grossi and tells us why we all should be involved, whether you're a farmer or not.
The last time Congress sat down and hammered away at the Farm Bill was 2002, at a time when Global Warming was still a debate at Capitol Hill. This time around, it is clear that we need to find alternatives to oil, and many lobbyists are pushing for greater funding for alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodeisel. This rush to push these energies may seem like everyone's starting to get it that something must be done, but are bio fuels the magic answer?
Not likely, say many experts. According to Grossi, "Biofuel's impact on the environment will be significant. Land that is currently been strictly in conservation use, under the Conservation Reserve Program, will be under a lot of pressure to go back into row-crop production. We expect that a few million acres will probably migrate back into crop production. That's a loss, particularly to wildlife habitat. Second, because of the high proces driven by renewable fuels primarily, it is now profitable to grow crops on less productive land. We'll see some more migration of cropping into fragile landscapes...those landscape are not in production for a reason: they have low productivity and require a lot more fertilizer, or have high erosion rates..."
Grossi believes a big overhaul of the Farm Bill is in order. Currently, there is a subsidy built into funding commodities that don't sell as well in the marketplace, and often farmers are chosing their crops based on those subsidies rather than on their market values. This taxes the whole system that was intended to be a safety net should farmers have a bad year. Grossi beleives that if prices were set at marekt rates, subsidies could go towards other areas, like land conservation.

Unfortunately I couldn't find the article online, but if you'd like a hard copy of the Spring issue, go to

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