So, the Farm Bill’s Back On Track. What Does That Mean Again?

By Staff
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Are you concerned about the environment, public health, alternative energy, local economies, corporate welfare, or domestic or global poverty? Ever buy, prepare, or eat food? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you have a significant stake in the farm bill.

In a recent piece in Vermont’s Seven Days, Ken Picard and Mike Ives ask a variety of Vermonters–farmers, activists, elected officials–for their thoughts on this far-reaching piece of legislation. The responses offer some fresh insight into the tangible effects of this terribly complicated, tremendously important bill. A couple examples, on subjects you might not have considered:

  • The Vermont Farm Bureau’s Tim Buskey’s biggest complaint with the bill is its exclusion of an amendment creating a guest-worker program for year-round workers. Three-fourths of the state’s agricultural revenue comes from milk production, an industry for which existing seasonal guest-worker programs are unhelpful.
  • Helm Nottermann raises Holsteins and sells burger patties at farmers markets. He has his eye on a possible provision that would allow him to sell his meat, which is certified by the state but not the USDA, across state lines. It’s not that he wants to start shipping it clear across the country, he tells to Picard and Ives. “You know, New Hampshire is pretty close to here,” he says.

Thanks to a deal reached last week, the long-stalled farm bill is moving again. The Senate is debating an agreed-upon number of amendments and may vote on the bill by the end of this week. But all signs indicate that the final version will at best include some modest steps away from the status quo. It looks like some of the people Picard and Ives talked to will have to wait another five years for a chance at meaningful change, and so will the rest of us.


–Steve Thorngate

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