Just as an experiment in seeing how long Congress can ignore the
electorate you may want to contact YOUR congresspeople with your
feelings on the farm bill.
While your at it, since impeachment is off the table, maybe you could
ask them if we could start a "war crimes tribunal".
Lastly, if you really want to see them twitch, ask if they could
sponsor "Public Campaign Financing".
The theory is that they work for us.
Posted on Sat, Oct. 27, 2007 10:15 PM
Doctors blame Congress for obesity problem, lobby for a more healthful
By ROB HOTAKAINEN
WASHINGTON | If you¹re feeling fat these days, blame Congress.
That¹s just what the nation¹s doctors are doing, saying that federal
lawmakers are responsible for the fact that a salad costs so much more
than a Big Mac.
Hoping to produce thinner waistlines, many doctors ‹ including the
American Medical Association ‹ want Congress to stop subsidizing the
production of foods that are high in fat and cholesterol and spend more
to promote fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains that are not.
Farm Belt lawmakers are on the defensive.
³I agree that obesity and health are serious issues in America today,²
said Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, who is a member of the
Senate Agriculture Committee. ³However, blaming the cause on the crops
that we grow in Kansas and/or the U.S. farm program is overlooking the
personal responsibility we all have in our daily lives and diets.²
The debate is intensifying as the Senate prepares to vote on a new farm
bill. On Thursday, the agriculture panel approved a bill that would give
a record $2 billion for specialty crops, which include fruits and
vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops. That¹s at least
four times as much as what Congress provided in the 2002 farm bill.
The 2007 farm bill will determine which food industries get the most
help from U.S. taxpayers over the next five years.
³The real scandal in Washington is the farm bill,² said Neal Barnard,
president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
³Senators take millions from corporations that produce bacon, burgers
and other fatty foods. Then Congress buys up these unhealthy products
and dumps them on our school lunch program. Companies get rich, and kids
Fruit and vegetable growers, who have long felt ignored on Capitol Hill,
are confident they will cash in this year. They want to persuade
Congress to broaden subsidies beyond traditional farm crops such as
corn, wheat, rice and cotton.
³Our markets are highly volatile, yet we have never relied on
traditional farm programs to sustain our industry,² said Doug Krahmer,
co-owner of Blue Horizon Farms in St. Paul, Ore., which grows
blueberries, grass seed, hazelnuts, clover, wheat and flowers.
At a recent congressional field hearing, Krahmer testified for a future
farm policy that will not only underpin farms but also ³will support and
encourage the health and well-being of all Americans.²
Krahmer noted that on any given day, 45 percent of children eat no fruit
at all, while 20 percent eat less than one serving of vegetables. They
would benefit, he said, if Congress offered subsidies to lower the
prices that consumers pay for fruits and vegetables.
Childhood obesity and the adult diseases associated with it have reached
³epidemic proportions,² Barnard said, noting government projections that
children born in 2000 have a one in three lifetime risk of developing
diabetes. U.S. farm subsidies ensure that high-fat foods, such as corn
syrup and corn oil, are cheap and widely available, while fruits,
vegetables and healthier grains are not, he said.
Not everyone, however, thinks that the push to subsidize fruits and
vegetables will make people healthier.
Bill Haw, a Kansas City rancher who owns two feedlots with more than
55,000 head of cattle, said he doesn¹t take any subsidies. But he knows
why fruit and vegetable farmers want them.
³I think it is drive more than anything by lobbying by people who
currently are getting their share of the pie,² Haw said. ³I think people
make eating decisions based on what makes them feel good.²
According to Barnard¹s group, agribusiness political action committees
have given more than $5 million over the last four election cycles to
members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. From 1995 to 2004, nearly
three-quarters of farm bill agricultural subsidies for food ‹ more than
$51 billion ‹ went to producers of sugar, oil, meat, dairy, alcohol and
feed crops used for cattle and other farm animals.
The group said that in 2005 alone, Tyson Foods, the nation¹s largest
meat producer, received $46.6 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture
Less than half of 1 percent subsidized fruit and vegetable production,
the group said.
Physicians are alarmed, saying the high-fat, high-cholesterol foods
subsidized by the farm bill then go to the national school lunch
program, contributing to obesity.
Members of Congress have been hearing a similar message from several
quarters this year.
In September, Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, noted
that since 1985, the actual price of fruits and vegetables has increased
40 percent, while the price of sugar and fats has declined 14 percent.
³Underserved communities cannot be denied access to the same healthy and
affordable food that is available to more affluent Americans,² he said.
As the Senate prepares to vote on the farm bill, the physicians
committee has been running a TV ad that seeks to link agribusiness and
Called ³Dirty Little Secret,² the ad is a spoof of the legal troubles
surrounding Sen. Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, who pleaded guilty to
disorderly conduct after an airport restroom sex sting. In the ad, a
well-dressed man in a restroom stall taps his foot to signal his
willingness to receive political contributions from the pork industry.
All the lobbying appears to be paying off.
³We decided that specialty crops needed to be a priority,² Agriculture
Secretary Mike Johanns told the United Fresh Produce Association last
month, before he resigned. He told the group that the recently passed
House farm bill includes $365 million in aid to expand block grants to
states for specialty crops. To pay for it, Johanns suggested eliminating
subsidies for farmers who earn more than $200,000 per year.
Overall, the House¹s farm bill, approved in late July, would offer an
estimated $1.7 billion for specialty crop programs. House Democrats say
their farm bill would spend $400 million more for a fresh fruit and
vegetable program for the school lunch program. It would expand a
program that gives vouchers to low-income elderly people who are
eligible for food stamps to buy fresh produce at roadside stands. And it
would create a demonstration project to evaluate ways to address obesity
among low-income groups.
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