Rural development "got the very short end of the stick" in Farm Bill

cross-posted at La Vida Locavore

I learned today from the Public News Service that Jon Bailey of the Center for Rural Affairs

has done an analysis of the 2008 Farm Bill, and found 233 times more spending on commodity subsidies than on rural development.

“Initiatives that would help start businesses, create jobs, make communities attractive places for people to relocate to, were left out of the farm bill.”

In contrast, Bailey notes, the Farm Bill allocates $35 billion for commodity subsidies, which makes the amount for revitalizing rural areas seem paltry.

“There are only three programs totaling $150 million for rural development in the final Farm Bill. Rural development got the very short end of the stick.”

Bailey noted that the 2002 Farm Bill included “more than $1 billion in mandatory spending for rural development programs.”

If you go to this page at the Center for Rural Affairs, you can find a link to a pdf version of the full report.

As much as I admire Senator Tom Harkin, I was very disappointed by how the Farm Bill (officially known as the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008) turned out. I have no idea what can be done to get Congress to redirect government funding toward sustainable farming practices and programs that improve the quality of life in rural areas.

Meanwhile, Susan Heathcote, the water program director of the Iowa Environmental Council and a member of the state Environmental Protection Commission, wrote a good guest editorial for the Des Moines Register about the need for better monitoring of drinking-water sources.

She mentioned two recent incidents of conventional farming polluting drinking water in the Des Moines area. Farms 80 miles upstream contributed to high ammonia levels found in the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers last spring, and a cyanobacteria “algae bloom” prompted the Des Moines Water Works to stop drawing from the Raccoon River in August.

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