Now that the dust has settled after the fight to get a farm bill passed, we can step back and take stock of what it actually means. The bill is always problematic; it represents one of those head-scratching political alliances between the agricultural industry and the anti-hunger lobby. They aren’t actually ideal partners for each other, with each side reluctantly taking on the other’s political baggage simply because they are stuck together in this bill. Yet, once we cut through the usual issues, there is actually some good going on as well.
If you look closely, you can definitely see that change is on the horizon for how we deal with food in this country. Traditional commodities subsidies were cut by more than 30% while funding for fruits, vegetables, and organics programs increased by more than 50%. Fruit and vegetable farms also finally have access to crop insurance. Another noticeable growth area is in the funding for programs that help food stamp recipients get access to fruits and vegetables. Organic programs also now receive support from both parties, rather than just their historical support from Democrats.
As much as we can criticize the bill for the poor structures that remain in place, it does give us a bit of insight into what future farm bills could look like. People are starting to expect that fruits and vegetables be treated like…..well, food. Our apples and eggplants may still be considered “specialty crops” but the government is ever so slowly starting to respond.