“Everyone who cares about the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat has an interest in reforming federal farm policy.” –Earl Blumenauer
Blumenauer's Food & Farm Bill of Rights
1. Americans have a right to a policy free of special interest giveaways.
Current farm policy favors corporate special interests. Fully 70 percent of the payments go to the top 10 percent of farmers, and even more of that benefit is concentrated for the large processors. What's more, aid is so concentrated in a few powerful states that the support received by most states is almost negligible. We deserve a food and farm policy that serves all Americans, not just the politically-connected.
2. American taxpayers have a right to a fiscally responsible policy.
Today's Farm Bill contains some of the federal government's largest programs. We deserve a food and farm policy that ensures our tax dollars are invested in fiscally sound policies and programs that fit in with the priorities of the American farmer and taxpayer.
3. Americans have a right to a policy that serves all farmers.
Our current farm policy ensures high profits for a few select commodities while neglecting the needs of many other valuable commodities and smaller producers. In fact, 60 percent of America's farmers and ranchers get no support whatsoever. We deserve a food and farm policy that supports producers and helps them access new local markets, thereby generating jobs by adding value to their products.
4. Americans have a right to a safe and healthful food supply.
Recent crises in food supplies (Hurricanes Katrina and Rita) and food safety (fresh spinach and tainted pet foods) are painful reminders of the vulnerability of our food supplies and distribution systems. We deserve a food and farm policy that guarantees a safe and healthful food supply in this country, in good times and in bad.
5. American children have a right to good nutrition.
Children who are hungry perform poorly in school and are at greater risk for long-term health problems. We deserve a food and farm policy that makes sure our children are well nourished by allowing more healthful choices and opening up access to fruits and vegetables.
6. Americans have a right to local supplies of fresh food.
Too many Americans do not have the option of buying affordable, locally-grown fresh food. We deserve a food and farm policy that includes programs that deliver healthy food to all communities, regardless of location, class, or economic standing.
7. Americans have a right to a policy that promotes energy independence.
The pursuit of heavily subsidized corn-based ethanol is a fool's game fueled only by massive government subsidies and regulations not justified by the science or economics. We deserve a food and farm policy that enables our farmers and ranchers to produce vast quantities of renewable energy: wind, solar, in some cases small-scale hydro, geothermal and biomass.
8. Americans have a right to a policy that protects the environment.
Virtually every urban area is surrounded by productive farmland that also provides important environmental services - wildlife habitat, carbon sinks, clean water - as well as landscapes and vistas that define our sense of place. We deserve a food and farm policy that promotes good stewardship of the environment and our natural resources.
9. Americans have a right to preserve farmland from sprawl.
In many areas of the country the pressures of sprawl are forcing farmers off of their land. We deserve a food and farm policy that gives farmers the tools they need to protect their land - and our heritage - from development pressures.
10. Americans have a right to a policy that fosters sustainable farming practices.
The current farm policy offers conflicting messages about good farming practices, sometimes promoting sustainable practices while other times offering incentives that undermine the long-term health of our soil and water resources. We deserve a food and farm policy that enables farmers to be responsible with their land so that they can pass it on to the next generation.
Reforming Commodity Subsidies
Blumenauer supports cutting commodity farm subsidies and shifting funding to reduce the deficit and to programs that support family farmers who provide healthy, sustainable food for communities. We can put millions back into the federal budget and ensure that our agricultural policies support the farms and the farmers who feed us.
The majority of commodity payments go to a few large-scale corporate farm operations, with less than 40% of farmers receiving any commodity payments at all. In fact, over 50% of farm subsidies go to only 22 Congressional districts. As a result, these payments do little to support or sustain rural communities, which continue to lose jobs and see their populations decline.
Promoting Healthy Food and Farms
Blumenauer is a strong advocate for strengthened and expanded nutrition programs that promote the availability and affordability of healthy and fresh foods and increases fruits and vegetables in school meals. In addition, he supports removing barriers that keep local farmers from selling products into schools and new programs to increase the supply and availability of locally and regionally produced foods in the marketplace.
Locally and regionally, food distribution works hand-in-hand with community-led efforts to reduce hunger and provide affordable food needed for good nutrition, especially in communities underserved by retail food stores. Reduced-price meals in schools have been proven to help students achieve higher test scores, while foods stamps can help many families and vulnerable Americans bridge the gap between what they can afford and what they need. Growing and distributing some of these foods locally and regionally will create profitable markets for many small and midsized independent farmers and ranchers, help to preserve farmland, and protect the environment with reduced transportation costs and more sustainable farming practices.
Protecting Farmland and the Environment
Congressman Blumenauer supports giving farmers more tools to protect their land from environmental degradation through legislation that grants tax credits to farmers who donate all or part of their development rights to a nonprofit land conservation organization or agency. The credits can be used to offset federal income, estate or capital gains taxes. Farmers continue to own and farm the land and could sell their land to other farmers or ranchers or transfer it to their children. The new owners would be free to farm or ranch on the property as they see fit; the only restriction would be that new homes, development or land divisions would not be allowed.