Cheeseheads unite! Late last week the Senate began discussing the $286 billion Farm Bill, and reports are surfacing that the current bill includes a plan for increased spending on, among other things, artisan cheeses. The provision, co-sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy of America's artisanal dairyland, Vermont, would help support this "promising new sector of the dairy industry."
Unfortunately, the bill will probably not be passed in its current form, as the White House has threatened to veto it without significant amendments. Republican Senator Judd Gregg (NH) said, "I'm not sure many Americans would agree that stress assistance programs for farmers or artisan cheese centers are a good use of their hard-earned dollars."
Hmmm, I guess he's not counting me!
However, even though this year's farm bill includes more programs to support small-scale farms than ever before—including a program to help renovate historic barns to drive agritourism—criticism of the bill isn't limited to those on the right. Last week small-ag supporter Michael Pollan decried the bill for missing the forest for the trees by upholding large-scale subsidies to commodity farmers.
It remains to be seen what the final incarnation of this important piece of legislation will look like. Though I agree with the premise of Pollan's criticism, I think it would be a great step forward for there to be legislation in place that supports the artisan cheese industry. That industry provides an excellent example of how small-scale farming can be sustainable and profitable. But what do you readers think? Is the Farm Bill on the right track, or missing the big picture?
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