Wednesday, March 14, 2007

What we'll sow

The unlikely title "Something to applaud the Bush Administration for" caught my attention on Grist this morning. Sounds like the new Farm Bill is moving in the right direction, according to the linked opinion piece in the New York Times which says includes the most generous conservation program ever offered by this administration: increasing spending by $7.8 billion over 10 years on land conservation and investing an additional $1 billion a year in a bold new program to develop renewable fuels other than corn ethanol from farm crops.

All this represents a significant break from past farm bills, which have traditionally provided heavy subsidies for big growers of corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton and rice who are concentrated in a handful of states. Half of all farm spending, which amounts to about $12.5 billion annually, now flows to just 22 Congressional districts.

The problems with this system are legion. At home, it drives small farmers out of business and compromises the environment. Abroad, it penalizes third-world farmers and jeopardizes trade talks.

The more I learn about food production and distribution, the more I appreciate how important these issues are for all of us. The system we have now—the seasonless miracle market with year-round everything—exacts a terrible price. It sounds as though this Farm Bill is taking a small but significant step in the right direction.

In related news, the word Monsanto should send chills up your spine.

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