In today's New York Times Michael Pollan nails politicians on both sides of the aisle for their collective abdication on the farm bill currently being debated in Congress. Once again (at least for the most part) the forces of regressive food policy, the commodity subsidies paid to agribusiness interests supported by entities like the Farm Bureau, have triumphed over the interests of eaters like you and me.
But Pollan suggests that change is afoot, and the forces of farm policy evil are beginning to feel the heat.
What finally emerges from Congress depends on exactly who is paying closest attention next week on the Senate floor and then later in the conference committee. We know the American Farm Bureau will be on the case, defending the commodity title on behalf of those who benefit from it most: the biggest commodity farmers, the corporations who sell them chemicals and equipment and, most of all, the buyers of cheap agricultural commodities — companies like Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.
In the past that alliance could have passed a farm bill like this one without breaking a sweat. But the politics of food have changed, and probably for good. If the eaters and all the other “people on the outside” make themselves heard, we just might end up with something that looks less like a farm bill and more like the food bill a poorly fed America so badly needs.