Land Mines in the 2013 Farm Bill

7557830828_cd10ac63d7_mEvery five to seven years a re-vamped farm bill makes its way slowly through the U.S. House and Senate in slightly different versions, to be later reconciled and presented to the full Congress for vote. As usual, there are provisions, proposed new rules, and industry-sponsored riders slipped into the bills on both congressional levels that require some education for us homesteaders and smaller producers and which – once we know about them – will require some direct communication with our members of congress to argue for their defeat.

In what Mother Jones calls Congress’ Big Gift to Monsanto and AlterNet dubs The Monsanto Rider, the 2013 bill is shaping up to be one of the most outrageously Big Ag coddling bills in history. In fact, as AlterNet’s authors present, this bill is likely to require the Secretary of Agriculture to grant a permit for planting and/or cultivation of genetically engineered crops without consideration of environmental impact.

Even as the New York Times details the continuing corruption of the organic foods industry by Big Biotech, Big Ag and Big Food to create what it calls “Big Organic” that isn’t so organic after all. Corporations such as Kellogg, PepsiCo, Heinz, Coca-Cola, Cargill, ConAgra, General Mills, Kraft and others have managed to gobble up the vast majority of our nation’s organic foods industry, and by virtue of that standing, get to alter and amend the rules small producers, homesteaders, wholesalers and retailers worked so hard on for so long under the USDA Organic label. To the point where some of the remaining organic food businesses – like Eden Foods – have dissociated themselves from the USDA’s corrupted program entirely.

Most very small producers like myself don’t really have to worry too much about certification for the purpose of supplying our harvest to big producers, and I admit I have let my certification lapse because the “extra” money I’d hoped it might bring in doesn’t cover the costs associated with inspections and such. I have plenty of customers for what I do sell, all local and willing to pay a premium for my non-chemical, non-GMO practices. I know many other small producers who have also kept their customer base more local, for much the same reason. Our CSA shares programs, organic tailgate and farmer’s markets, many organic restaurants, bed and breakfasts, etc. are always looking for more, so the market isn’t saturated yet.

At the same time, most small producers and homesteaders I know are like me in that they do purchase quite a lot of food from the grocery store for our families. Not everything can be bought fresh off the truck from a trusted farming neighbor, in all seasons of the year. So of course the integrity of the national organic foods system affect all of us, and thus we must all care about what happens to the standards in an era of such gross corruption and collusion between government and business that nobody can trust anyone on that level anymore.

The Organic Consumers Association has a great article about the situation, which includes the entirety of the problematic riders in the Farm Bills on both sides of the congress. Its list of what the riders seek to accomplish:

• Outlaw any review of GMO crop impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, or any other environmental law, or by any other agency other than USDA.

• Prohibit other agencies (like EPA, wildlife agencies, etc.) from offering expert input in the USDA’s review process. If the USDA determines in its review process that potentially harmful effects may occur, those findings are barred from informing any approval decision.

• Force backdoor approval of GMO crops, even if USDA has not previously reviewed and approved them, through unreasonably short deadlines that result in automatic approval if time (180 days) runs out.

• Codify a dangerous policy of allowing transgenic contamination in crops and foods.

• Limit EPA’s oversight of biotech crops engineered to produce pesticides.

I encourage my readers to read the links provided and educate themselves about the new corporate corruptions of national farm policy responsibilities and goals. And to let their legislators know how they feel about this corruption and the proposed farm bill’s elevation of corruption to the status of national policy.

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