How the Farm Bill Can Renew America's Food and Farm Policy
This year’s effort to renew America’s food and farm policy through the farm bill creates an opportunity for Congress to do more to support family farmers, protect the environment, encourage healthy diets and ensure better access to healthy food—all while supporting working families. Environmental Working Group (EWG) believes that Congress should enact farm and food policy legislation that: provides producers with an effective safety net at a lower cost to taxpayers; creates new markets for farm products; invests in conservation and nutrition programs that benefit all farmers and consumers; promotes greater consumption of fruits and vegetables; and meets the nation’s deficit reduction goals. In particular, Congress should:
Support Family Farmers
Congress should support family farmers by ending subsidies that flow to the largest farm businesses regardless of need. In particular, Congress should:
- End direct payments: Congress should end direct farm payments, which are provided regardless of need.
- Replace insurance subsidies with free yield insurance: Congress should replace costly insurance subsidies for commodity “program crops” such as corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton and rice with yield insurance policies designed to help farmers recover from “deep” losses caused by bad weather.
- Maintain the conservation compact: Congress should ensure that farmers implement practices that protect wetlands, grasslands and soil health in exchange for a taxpayer-financed safety net, including farm insurance.
- Support beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers: Congress should reform farm subsidy programs so as to level the playing field for all farmers and invest in programs that help beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers by easing access to conservation, crop insurance, credit, loan and grant programs.
- Expand local and regional markets: Congress should invest in loan and grant programs that help create local and regional markets for farm products.
Congress should invest in research and provide incentives for farmers and ranchers to protect and restore water quality and wildlife habitat. In particular, Congress should:
- Reject cuts to conservation: Congress should reject cuts to voluntary conservation programs and instead provide $30 billion over the next five years to share with farmers the cost of a clean environment.
- Promote collaborative partnerships: Congress should deliver 25 percent of conservation funding in grants selected for their potential for environmental benefit and awarded to groups of farmers and local partners working together.
- Reform easement and incentive programs: Congress should reform conservation programs to achieve administrative efficiencies, better target incentive and easement funds and provide loans for infrastructure projects.
- Support organic food: Congress should invest in grant and loan programs that help farmers switch to organic food production.
- Support research: Support and modify research, education and extension programs to better focus on organic and sustainable crop and livestock production and healthy food.
Support Healthy Diets
Fewer than 5 percent of American adults eat U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, and more than one-third are obese, increasing the nation’s health care costs by $127 billion a year.
To support healthy diets, Congress should:
- Support Feeding Assistance Programs: Congress should protect and strengthen SNAP and other nutrition assistance programs.
- Support Nutrition Education: Congress should support efforts to help Americans eat healthier diets through nutrition education.
- Promote Fruit and Vegetable Consumption: Congress should strengthen the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program and reform specialty crop programs so as to increase consumption of local fruits and vegetables.
- Increase Access to Healthy Food: Congress should provide grants for incentive programs that encourage SNAP recipients to buy and consume more fruits and vegetables, including at farmers markets and other food retailers.
- Support Better School Food: Congress should allow schools to use more school lunch and breakfast funds to purchase local fruits and vegetables.
- Maintain funding for research: Congress should underwrite sound research on nutrition, hunger and food security, and obesity prevention.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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