Part of a series of posts concerning to 2012 Farm Bill
In the past week the Farm Bill has moved into the stage of a piece of legislation’s life where it starts collecting amendments, some relevant and some…not so much. One possible amendment, sponsored by Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Robert Casey, would establish a national organic assessment program, called an “organic checkoff” in the language of the bill. What this ‘assessment program’ would actually assess is not standards or quality, as you might assume, but the organic industry’s ability to promote itself. It’s basically a federally-funded advertising campaign. Similar assessment programs spawned the ‘The Incredible, Edible Egg’ and ‘Got Milk?’ media campaigns. The idea would be to spread awareness of organic agriculture and hopefully to boost consumption of the entire industry. To this effect, the Organic Trade Commission has spent $50,000 since July 2011 to ‘explore’ the possible effects of assessment programs. Many organic farmers and their advocates are opposing the proposed amendment, however. Roger Pepperl, a marketing director for Stemitt Growers LLC, voiced the concerns of the organic industry when he said “Commodity boards have been on the decline for a while now. Generic promotions help no one.” It is still unsure whether the amendment will be included in the final form of the bill.
The current Farm Bill would also renew a new set of programs designed to get healthy food into the hands of those on welfare, called the ‘Hunger-Free Communities Incentive Grants’. Established in the 2008 Farm Bill, these programs may come under fire in future Farm Bill debate because of more limited federal funds. Despite fears of including too much of a subjective opinion, I will include the number for the U.S. Capitol switchboard (202) 225-3121 if you would like to call and tell your Senator or Congressman you support the Hunger-Free Communities Incentive Grant. Personally, I think it them to be a very important program, as far too often the food available to those on foodstamps, i.e. the cheapest, is some of the most unhealthy and least nutritious food out there. The Hunger-Free Communities Incentive Grants are still included in the current form of the Farm Bill.