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Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who chairs the Senate's Agriculture committee, announced this week that the first of many field hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill will be held in her home state of Michigan next Tuesday, May 31. In the run up to the meeting, there has been a flurry of news and commentary around the agriculture spending in general and the Farm Bill in particular. This week's roundup rounds it all up. Elsewhere in the food and ag world this week: food safety, bee colony collapse, farmers' markets, farm runoff and what rose breeding has to say about plant patents.

Roundup: Farm Bill Debate Heats Up

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who chairs the Senate’s Agriculture committee, announced this week that the first of many field hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill will be held in her home state of Michigan next Tuesday, May 31.

In the run up to the meeting, there has been a flurry of news and commentary around the agriculture spending in general and the Farm Bill in particular. Here’s a quick roundup:

The New York Times op-ed page featured a piece calling farm subsides “a great place to cut” and detailing the hope that this time, it might actually happen. The nut: “Our hopes have been dashed before, most recently when the farm lobby and its Congressional patrons shredded admirable reforms proposed by President George W. Bush. Now an alliance of conservative Republicans eager to cut the deficit and liberal Democrats opposed to corporate welfare is seeking ways to trim the subsidies.”

The site Simple Good and Tasty published a really helpful guide to the Farm Bill here, complete with explainers on some of the more complicated topics within the legislation.

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty kicked off his presidential bid by taking a swipe at ethanol subsidies and in Iowa no less. (Wall Street Journal story.)

Meanwhile, the House Subcommittee on Appropriations this week is proposing to gouge conservation and renewable energy programs in the Farm Bill to the tune of more than a billion dollars, angering both the National Wildlife Federation (story from Western Farm Press) and ethanol producers. (Story from Ethanol Producer magazine.)

Keith Good of FarmPolicy.com does a really nice job of compiling all the news around the House subcommittee’s proposed cuts here.

As does Chris Clayton of DTN Progressive Farmer here.

Elsewhere in the food and ag world: food safety, bee colony collapse, farmers’ markets, farm runoff and what rose breeding has to say about plant patents.

Food activist Marion Nestle writes this week on the Atlantic about the ins and out of implementing the new food safety law. Complicated, but interesting stuff.

The Environmental News Service reports on a new national partnership forming that will monitor the health of honeybee populations across the country.

Know your farmer, but also know your farmers’ market: Brownfield reports on the discrepancies among farmers’ markets’ rules and why consumers should educate themselves. Many shoppers think if it’s at a farmers’ market, it must be local and/or organic, but that’s not always the case.

Al Cross of the Rural Blog writes this week about farm runoff and how journalists might better cover the issue. The post comes in response to the most recent National Water Quality Inventory, which found runoff to be the “leading source of water quality impacts to surveyed rivers and lakes, the third largest source of impairments to surveyed estuaries, and also a major contributor to ground water contamination and wetlands degradation.”

And finally, Julie Ardery of the Daily Yonder has a really interesting piece up this week looking at plant patents and rose breeding. Here’s the nut: “Advocates of plant patenting have argued that ownership will spur botanical innovation. A new study of rose breeding in the U.S. suggests the opposite may be true.”

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Courtney Lowery Cowgill is a writer and editor (formerly of these pages) who also runs Prairie Heritage Farm, a small farm in Central Montana. She and her husband grow vegetables, turkeys, ancient and heritage grains and sometimes a little ruckus. As a farmer and writer, she works on and follows food and agriculture issues closely and each week, rounds up the top stories on the web in this arena for New West. Have an ag story you think should be included in next week’s roundup? You can reach Courtney at courtney@newwest.net.

About Courtney Lowery