† The Week of the Farm Bill: This week represents a crucial time in the Farm Bill debate. Whether you contacted your representative or senators earlier in the debate or postponed making a call or sending a fax, now is the time to do so, or to do so again.
† “Weed It and Reap”: Today’s New York Times features an op-ed by Michael Pollan and it’s a must-read:
On Capitol Hill, hearings on the farm bill have been packed, and newspapers like The San Francisco Chronicle are covering the legislation as closely as The Des Moines Register, bringing an unprecedented level of attention to what has long been one of the most obscure and least sexy pieces of legislation in Congress. Sensing the winds of reform at his back, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told a reporter in July: “This is not just a farm bill. It’s a food bill, and Americans who eat want a stake in it.”
Right now, that stake is looking more like a toothpick. Americans who eat have little to celebrate in the bill that Mr. Harkin is expected to bring to the floor this week. Like the House bill passed in July, the Senate product is very much a farm bill in the traditional let-them-eat-high-fructose-corn-syrup mold.
† “Calling Your Senators About the Farm Bill Can Have Unexpected Results”: Janet Majure, a resident of Kansas and a contributor to The Ethicurean (an excellent source of Farm Bill information if you haven’t already bookmarked it), writes about the experience telephoning her senators about the Farm Bill:
I think I was wrong, though, about the power of the phone call. In fact, it may be the best way to make an impression for those of us who don’t have money to gain access through contributions. Think about it. Emails are easy to ignore; how many do you delete a day? I suspect email drives by various organizations are interesting by not hugely persuasive because they’re relatively easy to accomplish.
But not that many people are willing to make the phone calls. It’s uncomfortable. It’s intimidating. And the politicians and their staff know it. That means that your voice, unless you’re ranting, makes a significantly bigger impression. Try it. Ask the name of the staff person in charge of the topic, and then ask to speak to that person. You might get through. It’s our best chance right now.
Senator Feinstein: 202.224.3841
Senator Boxer: 202.224.3553
Although the action this week is largely in the Senate, it is also important to remember that House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill will need to be harmonized. With that in mind, we also recommend a call to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, to say that we want Speaker Pelosi to push for real reform and substantial funding of programs that serve specialty crops, nutrition, food security, organic research and transition, and conservation programs. We appreciate the Speaker’s boldness on other national and international issues, and now ask for her to continue her bold stance on the fundamental issue of how America eats. Speaker Pelosi’s office number is 202.225.4965. (Thanks to Michael Dimock of Roots of Change for the reminder of the upcoming committee work.)
For our readers outside California, telephone and other contact information for your senators is available here.
† “Cost of Cheap Food on the Nation’s Health”: The cost of food is often a subject of debate, and Slow Food has been criticized for promoting food choices that are deemed by some to be expensive, elite, or otherwise out of the reach of the “average” consumer. One effect of the Farm Bill debate has been to bring into sharper focus how much it costs to bring such “cheap” food to the market, and how the real price–in terms of the health of our citizens, the health of our environment, and the health of our social network–is far higher than supermarket prices suggest. For one view of the cost of food and the proportion of our income we allot to it, the San Francisco Chronicle featured a contribution by Barb Stuckey, a v.p. of marketing with a food product development company. (As noted in the article, you can also listen to an audio interview with Barb Stuckey and Michael Pollan here.