Tag Archives: farm bill

Farm Bill 2013 Update


The Farm Bill 2013 is being discussed this week in Congress. Here is a report on how the discussions went in the  Senate Agricultural Committee, an analysis of what the Bill might do for the future of bees, and more on cutting spending on food stamps.

Wishlist for a New Food System


The din around the fiscal cliff grows louder every day, perhaps it is time to raise our voices to ask an important question: what happened to the  Farm Bill?  There has been some debate about the food stamp program or debate on genetic modification of crops but what if we resolved to start over, from a blank sheet and set up the food system that would benefit both producers and consumers and be prepared for dealing with climate change. Here are some of the things on my wish list for a better food system:

1. Better food choices at home:  while the awareness about eating “local” is  laudable , everything cannot be grown locally so if we find ourselves buying “local” tomatoes while stocking up on snow shovels, it means that we are buying produce that requires greater resources  because it is being produced out of season. Instead, let us try to eat in season, experiment with produce that actually grows in this season and expand our culinary abilities. Also, if a food producer has to sell only locally they might either not be able to meet demand (in which case  we would have to go without) or is left with a surplus which does not sell and he cannot ship it elsewhere because of the insistence on local food. Most of us in the food debate consider the consumer’s point of view. Let us also hear what the farmer thinks.

2. Change agricultural practices: adapting to climate change is not just about producing food under a different set of weather conditions, it should also be about using better farm practices like growing trees on farms to prevent soil erosion and sequester carbon, preserving biodiversity, green manure among an array of  possibilities.

3. A  fair food system: let us recognize the hard work that goes into producing our food;  long hours in all kinds of inclement weather often involving hazardous chemicals and equipment. The number of people ready to do this is small and yet we do little to bring in those who are ready to work in this area. We need to provide a decent life and dignity of work for immigrant workers on American farms.

And when we go to a restaurant and are happy to see that the food is “local” and “sustainable” and the chef has so many stars, let us also think about the restaurant worker. If you want to know if your server or cook is being paid a fair wage or get paid sick leave, there is now an app for that!   

4. Renew rural life: when it is openly stated that there is a disconnect between urban and rural communities with the latter being isolated and cut off from the mainstream, it is crucial to take action. Farmers today are older and fewer in number than before and as they become less able to farm the land, farms may be sold off to urban property developers or be purchased by large farms. To create a vibrant farm sector, it should be made easier for younger people to farm, offering financial aid or improving infrastructure where needed.

5. Plate and Planet:  every time we make a food choice let us think not just of how it will be on our plate but how it will impact the planet.  A recent study shows how yields of major crops are falling, and preparedness to deal with climate change is hardly robust so when we push a certain technology or practice, let us consider the global situation as well. Changing tastes in America might lead to positive change here but global hunger and access to food should also be considered.

And, finally, in this, as in other debates, let us be civil with those who disagree. Perhaps this wish list will remain just that: wishes, but can we at least resolve to stop name calling on Internet discussion forums because someone disagrees with us on a point of policy? We are all people,  no one is a “shill”.

Atlantic Food Summit Today

I will be attending the Atlantic Food Summit today, eager to hear the discussion on childhood nutrition, obesity and most important, how to feed 9 billion people sustainably. I will be sharing  and posting on all of that in detail and for the first time, will also attempt to tweet as it happens! Please follow @thegreenfork for updates. Martha Stewart and Mario Batali will be participating, among others, so it should be a good thing….

Eat Healthy, Spend Less

How’s that for a new year’s resolution? We knew this time would come: time to put away the cookies and reach for the kale, time to start paying off the holiday bills and trying to stick to a budget. It’s not difficult if we make good choices, such as the helpful tips posted by Chef Marcus Samuelsson . He lists healthy choices like oatmeal and beans which are big on nutrition and easy on the budget. Sometimes, though, we face time constraints and instant oatmeal or a frozen entrée seems to be the only option. In such a case, one can adopt a middle path: beans yes, but canned ones which have been thoroughly rinsed or we could still use the dried beans but cook them in a  pressure cooker. If you have never used a pressure cooker before, please do try one. They cook food in far less time than the stove top so that you save money on utilities as well. And as always, eating fresh produce that is in season means you spend less since the food is not processed and has not been transported over a long distance. And with all that healthy stuff inside us, we will be ready to tackle the tough issues: school lunch, Farm Bill, climate change, food justice, it is a long list!

Looking Ahead…..

It has been a hectic few weeks as the year closed, in fact it seemed like a hectic year all throughout! At times like these, harried and rushed we forget to pay attention to the fuel we are using and reach for the sweet treats and turn into the nearest fast food place. So, here is an idea for a resolution: before we eat, let’s stop and think about our choices. Apparently, we are starting to make better food decisions, eating more fruit and yogurt and cutting back on beef. But we still cannot seem to let go of the corn and potatoes, the cheese and sweets so that needs some work.

Thank you for reading and supporting Thought+Food this year, that is what keeps this endeavor going. I will continue to follow the Farm Bill and the school lunch issues more closely and bring you information that is essential to keeping you, your family and the planet healthy. A very Happy New Year! See you in 2012!