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September 11, 2012
Congress Unlikely to Pass 2012 Farm Bill in Time
by Robert Kropp
As severe cuts in the food stamp program and assistance to farmers seem more likely, the
responsibility for building a sustainable food supply falls to sustainable investors and other key
Last month, RSF
Social Finance reported that creating a sustainable food system in which everyone has equitable
access to healthy, fresh, and safe food "requires sufficient production of healthy food in every
region of the US; widespread distribution systems to ensure adequate physical access to food;
nutrition assistance for low-income families; education about basic nutrition; and changes in food
preparation and consumption habits."
Many of the steps documented by RSF, a
non-profit financial services organization, require robust government policies to ensure that
access to healthy foods, and education about nutrition, are available to low-income families. Yet
as the National Sustainable
Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) warns, there is a growing likelihood that Congress will fail to
pass a 2012 Farm Bill before the current bill expires on September 30th.
Republican Party chose Paul Ryan as its vice-presidential candidate increases the possibility that
passing a bill by the end of this month will not occur, according to NSAC. "Ryan is a leading
critic of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, and also
has called for cuts to farm programs more than twice as large as those contained in the Senate and
House Committee-passed bills," the organization states.
Neither the Senate nor the House
version of the bill spares farmers and low-income families from budget cuts, although the Senate
version does restore funding for the SNAP program (although it reduces the funding by $4.5 billion
over the next 10 years) and provides assistance to beginning farmers. The House version, however,
would reduce the number of food stamp recipients by an estimated two million people.
"Key programs that create jobs in rural America, seize market opportunities for farmers and small
businesses, and ensure the success of the next generation of farmers will run out of funding if
Congress does not reauthorize or extend and fund these programs," NSAC warned.
Furthermore, funding for conservation programs is endangered as well. "Conservation funding has
been hit time and again because our lawmakers have placed more importance on production subsidies
and paying producers for losses rather than rewarding them for smart land management," NSAC
As with other critically important issues such as climate change and financial
reform, it does not appear that American citizens can look to their legislators for help in
building a sustainable food supply. Congressional inaction makes the investment decisions of
sustainable investors all the more important. As Taryn Goodman, RSF's Director of Impact Investing,
stated upon the publication of the organization's report, "Just as the creation of a healthier food
system will require creativity and innovative solutions, so will the capital needed to support it."
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