Thursday, November 16, 2017
Washington, D.C. — Rep. Blumenauer (OR) unveiled a new blueprint for the federal Farm Bill today. His bill, the Food & Farm Act, cuts wasteful agriculture subsidies that steer farmers toward harmful and unhealthy farming practices. Additionally, it deepens U.S. investments in proven conservation programs that help farmers switch to sustainable farming practices. The legislation was unveiled at a press event and panel presentation on Capitol Hill.
“The timing couldn’t be better,” said Bill Wenzel, Food and Farming Program Director for U.S. PIRG and a member of the panel that announced the bill. “Today’s consumers care about the healthfulness of their food, and yet America’s farm policies incentivize farming methods that rely on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides—there’s a major disconnect.”
U.S. PIRG worked to cut wasteful subsidies in the last Farm Bill fight, and while Congress did end a program called “direct payments,” it greatly expanded subsidies for crop insurance, leading the organization to oppose the bill’s final passage.
“The lion’s share of federal money coming from the Farm Bill incentivizes a 1980’s style of farming—huge monocultures with very little crop diversity,” said Wenzel. “That style of farming strips the soil of nutrients and allows pests to build up, forcing farmers to turn to chemicals as a remedy. We can do a whole lot better, but it will take smart, innovative changes to our current farm policies.”
As an example of a farming practice that works, Wenzel pointed to increased crop rotations as a simple, yet effective method to enable farmers to reduce their use of fertilizers and pesticides. Research at Iowa State University has shown that by planting more than corn and soybeans over a four-year crop rotation, farms can reduce their use of fertilizers and herbicides by roughly 90 percent while still maintaining yields and profits.
“These researchers have virtually eliminated the need for chemicals without threatening the profitability of the farms,” said Wenzel. “So, when I hear that Rep. Blumenauer wants to boost funding for programs that help farmers adopt these types of healthy farming practices, I get excited.”
U.S. PIRG is an advocate for the public interest, working to win concrete results on real problems that affect millions of lives. We take on difficult challenges using a non-partisan, fact-driven, results-oriented approach.