Editorial: Don’t let only money talk

Any working definition of what it means to be “rural” typically includes agriculture, but rural America’s representatives in Congress seem more enamored of city-like industrial agriculture than old-fashioned family farming. That’s no doubt because Big Agriculture means big money, and money is what gets Congress’ attention.

In all the blustering talk of balanced budgets and austerity and the terrible national debt we’re leaving our children, seldom is mentioned the massive amounts of taxpayer-funded subsidies that go to industrialized crops like corn and soybeans and sugar.

The irony is almost as delicious as a yummy candy bar, for these industrialized crops are precisely the raw ingredients that go into the processed foods that create the junk food that is making us all obese. Yet healthy foods – like fruits and vegetables – command no respect from Congress.

On Tuesday (April 9), however, the “Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act of 2013” was introduced in Congress. It would:

  1. Increase support for local food production, aggregation, processing and distribution so that farmers can more easily sell healthy food, including locally raised and processed meat, directly to schools, hospitals, stores and restaurants.
  1. Enable schools to use more of their federal food funding to buy fresh, local foods. A pilot program would allow 10 school districts to use a percentage of their school lunch commodity dollars to buy food from local farmers and ranchers, instead of through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s national commodity food program.
  2. Improve the diets of food stamp recipients and low-income seniors by making it easier for them to use food stamps to purchase healthy fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and community-supported agriculture programs. This would also provide more income for local farmers.
  3. Diversify and promote production of healthy and sustainable food by improving access to credit, crop insurance and other support for organic producers as well as diversified farming operations and smaller-scale and beginning farmers.

Let our Congressman, Rep. Robert Hurt, know what you think about this proposed legislation. He listens to constituents even if they’re not campaign contributors or lobbyists.

Walter Nicklin