Readers of my wife’s blog, The Cleaner Plate Club, know that she gets pretty hot and bothered about the Farm Bill, and I don’t mean in that hot and bothered way she gets about food writer Michael Pollan. Yes, she was none too pleased that the new Farm Bill passed by Congres has done little to address the insanity of federal subsidies being given to industrial mega-farms that produce unhealthful commodity crops, thus making it even more difficult for small farms growing good food to compete.
So I felt mixed emotions when I got an email today from the terrific folks at CFED (who monitor changes to federal and state policy for asset development and microenterprise) announcing that the new federal Farm Bill contained $5 million annually for an “Individual Development Account (IDA) Pilot Program for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers.” Who doesn’t love “beginning farmers and ranchers”? In the Benjamin household, that sounds like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial: “Hey, you got your peanut butter in my chocolate…” But wait, it’s really (all together now) “two great tastes that taste great together.”
Sure, I’m glad to see innovative asset development strategies find their way into the Farm Bill, but it feels a bit like it comes at the expense of sound agricultural policy. And how does $5 million well-spent compare to the billions that are undermining our food system? It’s an accessory that helps dress up an otherwise ugly bill, making it less likely for people like me to bad-mouth it. I feel used.
Just imagine if there had been real reform to the Farm Bill, AND it had supported IDAs for farmers and ranchers. Then The Cleaner Plate Club and Asset Almanac could have bought some vino, turned up the Marvin Gaye, and gotten it on into the wee hours with some blogosexual healing. Ali and I celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary in a few short days, and this Farm Bill could have been an early anniversary present from our friends in Washington. Instead, our anniversary celebration will take us in the general direction of Canada — wishful thinking — without our blogs (or our children) in tow, leaving them to work out their differences free of parental supervision. Oh, if only congress knew what an opportunity they had missed.
Here’s one consolation: with re-authorization of the Farm Bill every 5 years, they can still make it up to us on our 15th….or 20th….or 25th….