Blogging the Hazon Food Conference–Day 4

This is my last and final post from what has been an incredibly inspiring and amazing weekend.
Look for a retrospective on the whole conference when I return to smoggy LA, from this glorious central Cal. coast conference center.
Read below for important info on the US Farm Bill:

The US Farm Bill is relegislated and “revamped” every 7 years. It was last reviewed in June of 2007. First, the bad news.
In June ’07 the price of corn was $7/bushel (56 lb), today it is just $3. This means that farmers borrowed from the government at the $7 rate, but are only earning on the $3/bushel rate, this is an exceptional amount of loss, in which the government benefits and the farmer loses out. In the next 60-90 days we will likely see the most severe farmer credit crisis in over 20 years. Ultimately, this benefits agrobusiness which buys and sells of the Commodity Market Exchange in Chicago, which is a futures exchange, i.e., it functions on the PRESUMED costs, not actual costs. So these business buy and sell commodities based on the fluctuating market. Again, Big Business and government wins, small farmers lose.
At the root of this movement is the recognition that farmers need a fair wage for their production costs and their labor.
Right now, less than 1% of total USDA budget is geared towards organic growing, which comes to a total of $78 million for prodcution and research in the field. However, organic produce makes up 4% of the overall retail market of produce and goods sold in the US, so… that’s not so equitable.
Here’s some positive new elements to the recent Farm Bill that were not in the previous Farm Bill.
Organically grown food is guranteed cost sharing by the government in $22 milion increments up to $750 million or not more than 75% of total costs incurred.
Farms which seek to convert to organic are given a credit of $20,000 per year up to $80,000.
However, farms that are organic are taxed an additional 5%, yet, on the positive side, those farmers can now be reimbursed for those taxes.
Ultimately, the USDA now actually recognizes that there are some (despite the fact that there are MANY) benefits to organic production. We have a long way to go, organic acreage in the US only totals .51%, that’s one-half of one percent of the total farm acreage in the US. We are WORLDS behind the EU in governmental support for organic farmers and production.
What can we do? Vote with our fork. Buy and eat organic, and call your representatives and senators to urge greater support for organic farming in the next US Farm Bill.

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