In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

A roundup of news clippings we're reading that affect the way we eat.

Immigration Reform, Raisin Scandal, and More in Food Policy

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[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Immigration Bill Could Mean Big Changes for Farm Workers

In June, the US Senate passed a bill that could overhaul the immigration process for many seeking to live and work in America. However, House majority whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has maintained that this bill will not move forward. This week, hundreds of protestors, including many Latino farmworkers (who represent a huge population in this agricultural region) rallied outside of McCarthy's local office in his district of Bakersfield, California.

Official reports estimate that about half of migrant farmworkers in the U.S. are undocumented, but insiders say it's closer to 90%, meaning that reformed immigration policy could have a huge impact on the quality of life, economic opportunities, and peace of mind for a crucially important workforce. For more information on how the immigration reform bill could help undocumented farmworkers, check out this article from the American Immigration Council.

Raisin Grower Takes His Case to the Supreme Court

For decades, the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act has dictated that farmers of certain crops must withhold some amount of their product from the market each year. This measure was implemented in 1937 as a means of protecting crop prices — "bumper crops" could lead to a severe price drop that could threaten a farmer's livelihood. Often farmers send their "excess" crops to a reserve pool, and receive little money if those crops are later sold.

One raisin grower in California had had enough of the system. He refused to participate in the "mandatory reserve" program of the Raisin Administrative Committee, and consequently was taken to court for selling all of his crop. His case went to the Supreme Court, who ruled unanimously that he had a right to challenge the reserve programs on the grounds that it removed private property without proper compensation. The RAC is now considering his demand to change the program for the 2014-5 crop cycle. Hear Marvin Horne talk about their case in this story from NPR.

Farm Bill Debate Continues

The political battle over the Farm Bill continues, even as Congress enters its summer recess this month. Democrats are pushing House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on the issue of food stamps, which has become the crux of a deeply partisan debate over the future of the Bill. House Republicans passed a version of the Bill last month that removed the food stamp program entirely, which incensed Democrats and further entrenched the party lines that have been deepening since the Farm Bill debates began months ago.

Now, the GOP is working on another bill which cuts $40 billion over 10 years from the food stamp program. This is twice as much as their original version of the full Farm Bill, and this decreased funding has done little to sway Democrats closer to a cooperative solution. If a new Farm Bill isn't passed by October, there will be serious consequences for farmers and families dependent on the government's crop subsidies, conservation funding, and nutrition programs.

About the Author: Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her other work can be found at her website.

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