by Marion Nestle
Aug 12 2010

Fix the farm bill so it promotes public health

The Farmers Legal Action Group has a new report out analyzing the 2008 Farm Bill and explaining what needs to happen to bring our agricultural policies in line with public health policies.  The report has a title that warms my heart, “Planting the Seeds for Public Health.” Its subtitle: “How the farm bill can help farmers to produce and distribute healthy foods.”

Its main findings:

  • Fruit and vegetable farmers lack a safety net to protect them from natural disasters in a manner comparable to programs that are available for farmers producing major commodity crops, such as corn, soybeans and wheat;
  • Crop insurance, disaster assistance, and loan and conservation programs are not designed to address the unique characteristics of fruit and vegetable production and marketing; and
  • Nutrition program expenditures are not adequately directed to ensure children, including those from low-income households, receive healthy food.

And one key observation: many of the recommended changes could be made by the USDA without the need for additional direction from Congress.  Translation: No need to wait until 2012 when the Farm Bill comes up again.

USDA could do a lot of this NOW!