The Farm Bill of the Future
We read with interest and enthusiasm the special issue titled “The Future of Food” [Oct. 30]. However, we are saddened that there was no real discussion of the upcoming renewal of the US Farm Bill in 2018 (other than a brief reference in Lindsey Shute’s piece). Yet the upcoming legislation to renew and revise the Farm Bill gives liberals and progressives a chance to reconnect with rural America. Here is how this happens.
Liberals and progressives should begin by putting much more emphasis on supporting small farms that grow more nutritious food. This provides jobs for young adults in rural America who are currently out of work and may be interested in a career in farming. A Farm Bill that contains adequately funded programs to train people in sustainable-farming techniques can provide incentives for young people in rural America to remain instead of migrating to urban areas. In other words, such programs can help reverse the depopulation of rural areas across the country.
Implementing these measures in the Farm Bill also means more nutritious food available for everyone in America. There is ample evidence that the demand for healthier food is growing each year. Since the Farm Bill covers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, we can also encourage recipients of SNAP to switch to healthier food choices. This will help to address the obesity and diabetes epidemic in the United States, which is a growing problem, especially in rural America.
There should also be much greater funding of research into sustainable farming, including organic-farming methods, and ways to use technology in support of sustainable farming that are scalable. This research is badly needed to counter the decades of funding into research for large-scale production farming, which has created as many problems as it solves.
The Farm Bill is massive, with many parts. We recognize that it will not be simple to turn these ideas into operational Farm Bill language. But these ideas are gaining support across America, giving liberals and progressives a golden opportunity to show that we are the ones who care about rural America, not the conservatives who have time and time again used the Farm Bill to support large-scale agribusiness with no concern for the health and welfare of everyday Americans—especially rural Americans.
silver spring, md.