May Brings Manure in Congress & Gardens To Delight

Coalition Report
by Kathleen Logan Smith
Executive Director; Missouri Coalition For The Environment

The once-every-five years Farm Bill that sets our nation’s food policy is beginning to take shape. The U.S. General Accounting Office is the newest entity to weigh in on the need to limit taxpayer subsidies. Its focus is on crop insurance subsidies which have become the costliest source of payments to farm operations. Crop insurance these days isn’t just about disasters like floods, pests, and drought that can take a crop out-most folks agree on the need for this aid. Instead, increasingly it’s revenue insurance which pays out even in a good year if, for example, production in a crop is so good that supplies climb and prices decline Yep. Farmers can insure a price point with taxpayer help. It’s quite a deal. And its cost to the treasury continues to climb with its popularity.

Other aid-to-farmer programs come with conservation strings attached- important strings that deny payments if farming practices blatantly cause soil erosion and water pollution. Somehow, crop insurance subsidies carved a loophole so now taxpayers have the unfortunate privilege of subsidizing operations that generally are polluting our waters, losing our precious farmland soil, and degrading downstream environments.

Our modest request for the 2012 Farm Bill is that this loophole be closed. In short, that no taxpayer money go to farm operations that do not treat the soil and water with respect- the technical term is “conservation compliance” and we have too many mouths to feed to subsidize operations that undermine our long-term agricultural health. The short message is, “Save our soil, or we’ll save our money.” You can weigh in on this and other food and Farm Bill issues directly to the House Agriculture Committee which is accepting comments through May 20 at http://agriculture.house.gov/farmbill_feedback.html. Keep our senators in mind as well and contact Senator McCaskill and Senator Blunt because the Senate version of the Farm Bill is headed their way. Learn more about food policy at our website, www.moenviron.org.

On the local front, May is a great time to get in touch with the outdoors. May 5th-6th the Baker Creek Spring Planting Festival in Mansfield draws heirloom gardeners and suppliers from the region (http://rareseeds.com/) along with international food activists and speakers, including the indomitable Jeffrey Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology and leading expert on genetically modified foods. More locally, the Spanish Lake Garden Tour and Plant Sale will be held on Sunday, May 20th, from 11 am to 4 pm. The Plant Sale will be held on the grounds of the Twillman House, 11840 Bellefontaine Road in Spanish Lake where the Garden Tour will also begin. A 150-acre estate overlooking the Missouri River will be open for the first time in three decades, along with residential and community gardens and a farm.

The following Thursday, May 24th, we are hosting the Tower Grove Tree Tour Brown Bag Lunch Benefit where you will enjoy a stroll in one of our city’s greatest parks, while learning about all the species of trees showcased in this urban gem (for tickets see www.moenviron.org).

Then mark your calendars for June because Home-Eco invites you to join the food revolution and learn about green living, beekeeping, chickens, and permaculture at the Sustainable Backyard Tour in St. Louis, Sunday, June 24 from 11-4 (www.sustainablebackyardtour.com – volunteers are needed, so sign up!)

Spring is a great time for new beginnings and planting seeds for the future. Thank you for your efforts to make this a healthy planet.