by Kathleen Logan Smith

Executive Director ; Missouri Coalition For The Environment


Secret Food Bill Scheming Reminds Us of Our Power to Change

In this column, we’ve been learning more about the U.S. Farm Bill, the package of legislation that impacts our food system- what is grown, how it’s grown, and how much it costs us. The Farm Bill, or the Food Bill as it should be known, is reauthorized every five years or so by Congress. The next one will be written in 2012, unless the Congressional Super Committee eliminates this.

This year this column has been dedicated to exploring our nation’s food policy. What would you like to explore in 2012? Send your requests to me at klogansmith@moenviron.org. I want to hear from you. And thank you.

By the time you read this, we will all know whether or not the House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders succeeded in drafting the 2012 Farm Bill in secret for the so-called Super Committee to pass. We will also know whether or not representatives from four states, which in this case are the Chairs and Ranking Members of both the House and Senate Ag Committees, were challenged in their effort to exclude representatives from the other 46 states in the development of our food policy.

The plan to write the Farm/Food Bill in secret, which was endorsed by the Administration, was hitting snags last month (getting farmers, even industrial ones, to agree on anything is never easy). Word got out and a public outcry against the secret process began reverberating across the country. Many on Capitol Hill were guessing that the secret effort would fail and the 2012 Farm Bill would be written, in a more typical way, in the spring of 2012.

Regardless of the machinations of elected officials awash in money aimed at securing their support for petrochemical-dependent industrial agriculture, we retain, for the moment our power to support a better way.  We can vote immediately with our dollars by buying local food, organic food, and sustainably produced food. We can ask our grocers to stock more local producers. We can ask our local governments to create policies that nurture local food production. We can go to http://rareseeds.com and order the heirloom varieties of vegetables, fruits, and herbs we will plant this coming spring. We can rake our leaves and mulch them to rebuild soil in our own backyard. We can preserve some of this year’s harvest through drying, canning or freezing. We can commit ourselves this holiday season to eating well for ourselves and the planet.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment celebrated our 42nd Anniversary last month at an event themed, “The Power to Change.” In an age when we often feel powerless in the face of well funded, well staffed, and dripping-with-cash special interests, it is sobering to reflect on the power we do have. We all have the power to change something. In the past month I’ve learned of a young girl, who, upon learning of the birds harmed by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, decided to help. Of course she was not old enough to leave her New England home and head to the Gulf. Nor was her family able to pen million dollar checks. Instead of creating the endless lists of ‘can’ts’  which we adults are so very prone to creating, she focused on what she can do: paint. A self-described, “decent drawer” of birds and wildlife, she offered to help the Audubon Society. Working with Audubon Society, she decided she would create a painting for every donation made because of her effort. More than 500 impressive paintings later New York fifth grader Olivia Bouler had raised more than $150,000 for Audubon.

We all have the power to change: ourselves, our families, our communities, our states, our nation, and our world. What is your power? This season and in the coming year, use it to create a healthy planet.

For more info visit www.moenviron.org or call 314-727-0600.