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Healthy Food and California Get Short Shrift in Farm Bill

Environmental Working Group

An Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis highlights the skewed priorities and gross inequities in federal spending under the nation’s most far-reaching food and farm legislation.

The data show that from 2008 to 2010, spending on commodity crops under the federal farm bill totaled $39.6 billion, more than eight times as much as on specialty crops such as fruits, vegetables and nuts. During that time the market value of the commodity crops (primarily corn, wheat, soybeans, rice and cotton) was $320 billion, only twice as much as the specialty crops’ market value. Farm bill spending on specialty crops amounted to just $4.7 billion even though their market value was estimated at $170 billion.

The analysis shows that public investment has been meager on programs to support fruit and vegetable production and organic agriculture and on smart initiatives to build dynamic food economies that support agricultural diversification and link small and mid-sized family farms to local and regional markets.

“Fruit and vegetable growers have historically been left out of agriculture policy even though they provide foods that are vital for improving America’s nutrition and reducing the costly toll of diet-related diseases,” said Kari Hamerschlag, food policy senior analyst at EWG.

EWG’s data also show that California, home to 12 percent of the population and producer of 12 percent of the country’s agricultural output, receives less than 5 percent of farm bill expenditures. That puts the state’s specialty crop growers, who produce half of California’s agricultural bounty and 40 percent of the nation’s fruits and vegetables, at a major disadvantage.

These following links detail farm bill funding allocations for conservation and nutrition in California and in the nation as a whole. Funding for both of these vital programs is at risk in the next farm bill.

More than 30 Democratic House members from California sent a letter this week urging the House Agriculture Committee’s leaders to expand funding for programs that promote local and regional food systems and organic farming and that support beginning and disadvantaged farmers, agricultural research and marketing.

For more information, click here.

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