Farm Bill Pickpockets

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Earlier this summer, advocates for the fruit and vegetable industry touted their “commitment to increasing fresh fruit and vegetable consumption for tens of thousands of students.”

The cut proposed yesterday to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, by the House Agriculture Committee, will test their “commitment.”

The House agriculture committee proposed a $16 billion cut to food stamps – a cut that will reduce spending on fruit and vegetables by $3.2 billion. That’s because fruits and vegetables account for nearly 20 percent of SNAP purchases, and nearly half of SNAP recipients are kids.

How will industry groups like the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance and United Fresh Produce Association respond?

Will they make good on their “commitment” to encourage kids to eat more fruits and vegetables? Or will they support programs that benefit their bottom lines (such as specialty crop block grants for marketing and research) but do little to address the childhood obesity epidemic?

We hope our friends in the fruit and vegetable industry will stand against the cynical bait-and-switch that uses most of the savings created by (finally) ending direct payments to gin up a new suite of entitlements for the same farming operations that have been getting direct payments for years.

Common sense reforms to the bloated crop insurance program would produce more than enough savings to pay for both -- research funds for the fruit and vegetable industry and healthy food for needy kids. Ending subsidies to crop insurance companies would nearly save enough money to meet both important priorities.

The House agriculture committee proposal presents the specialty crop lobby with an opportunity to stand up for both its industry and needy kids. There is no need to cannibalize funding for hungry kids to support much-needed research.

Will the industry take a stand? The San Francisco Chronicle reported that industry lobbyists aren’t up for a fight:

"We just try to deal with what's happening to our industry, and let commodities fight their own battles, and we fight ours."

Needy kids will be the losers if the industry takes the devil’s bargain offered by House committee leaders.


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