Huffpost Education
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Ken Cook Headshot

I Call the Vote: A Farm Bill Litmus Test for the Food Movement

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Here's a simple proposition to test whether the food movement can stand up to Big Ag. We're asking readers who care about providing healthier food to school children to take a stand by voting on our resolution: A Farm Bill for Healthy Kids.

Be it resolved: Notwithstanding the need for full funding of conservation and nutrition programs, along with other essential reforms, the "farm bill" now before Congress shall reduce subsidies for industrial commodity crops by $1.5 billion per year and shall use those funds to serve fresh fruits and vegetables daily to the 30-plus million kids enrolled in more than 100,000 schools now served by the federal school lunch program.

I voted yea.

What will it be, America? What's on your shopping list for the farm bill?

How do you want your money spent on the food system over the next five years?

Do you want to throw another $140 billion into subsidies, including a brand-new $33 billion "shallow loss" entitlement program that guarantees business income for a few thousand agribusiness operations growing industrial commodity crops?

If you want to see what that version of your farm bill investment portfolio will look like through 2017, take a gander at EWG's Farm Subsidy Database.

Most of the very same big winners we spotlight will hoover up billions more over the next five years under the bill passed last month by the Senate Agriculture Committee. What's more, that bill also proposes to cut conservation programs and nutrition funds by more than $10 billion.

Is the Senate ag panel's bill the best we can do? Or do you want to reclaim a fraction of your money and use it to give tens of millions of kids a shot at forming healthier eating habits by serving them fresh fruits and vegetables at school? You'll support farmers who grow that food in the bargain.

The farm bill headed to the Senate floor contains only $150 million annually to provide school children with a healthy fruit and vegetable snack -- only enough for children in 4,500 schools.

Is offering a healthy snack the only idea in the farm bill that should matter to the food movement? Of course not. The farm bill should also provide incentives for low-income consumers to purchase fruits and vegetables, support local and regional food sales, invest in organic food, fully fund conservation and nutrition programs and reform farm subsidies.

But the farm bill drafted by the Senate Agriculture Committee fails to deliver the recipe consumers are demanding. The committee wants to bestow $140 billion on agribusiness, leaving crumbs -- roughly $200 million -- for healthy food programs.

Doesn't it make more sense to encourage a new generation of kids to crave fruits and vegetables -- and to pay for that effort by cutting subsidies to highly profitable corporate farmers and insurance companies?

I ask for a recorded vote, America: yea or nay?

Or will the food movement pick one of the other two options?

Absent? Or not voting?

Go to my post at EWG's AgMag to vote,