farm bill


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Is about its organic farms, right? Well, that’s what I am here to report. I’m in Woodbury County, Iowa, learning about their local food purchasing policy and the tax credit to help farmers convert to organic. This is what I can say about Iowa right now: everyone I have met here is totally awesome.¬†Go Iowa!

Dear farm bill,

I really do care about you and I have been trying to arrange my schedule to accommodate your needs. However, I am not sure how much longer I can take this. When are you going to pass? Or fail? Or do something decisive? I feel like you are stringing me along all the time — “next week,”you tell me, then “next week” again. I’m just following you around all the time, waiting for something to happen. And how am I supposed to respond to today’s vote in the Senate, where they failed to lift a filibuster against you? I thought maybe you were dead, — which would have been OK, because then, at least, I could have a wake for you and drink lots of beer. But now you tell me it’s just a coma, or maybe even a nap. So I have to sit by your side until you wake up?! Spare me, farm bill. I just want to be a normal person again and not include “it depends on the farm bill” in my party RSVPs. Either work with me or be gone.

sincerely,

frustrated ag reporter

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and therefore in charge this year of writing the five-year $283 billion farm bill. Perhaps you do not care about the farm bill, but I am here to tell you that you should. It oversees billions of dollars in crop subsidies that affect the way we use land and grow crops. The biggest chunk of money is for food and nutrition programs — like food stamps, which may get a new name in this year’s farm bill (but more on that later). It pays landowners to improve water, conserve land or create wildlife habitat. The farm bill enrolls more land in conservation programs than the entire National Wildlife Refuge System. (If you love ducks, you should love the farm bill.) Rural development, broadband access, ethanol biorefineries, international food aid and research are also in the farm bill too. So listen up, yo! The farm bill is your bill!

Anyway, that is not what I meant to tell you in this post. I am here to tell you that Sen. Harkin, among other things, LOVES the farm bill’s fruit and vegetable snack program for schools. He could talk about it all day. It gives kids little packages of carrots or spinach or apples or something in the midmorning or the afternoon … when they’ve got the growlies. That is what he always says: “you know, when kids have the growlies, they can have a nutritious snack.”

(I will note that it turns out getting fresh vegetables in schools is MUCH harder than you would think. See this excellent NYTimes piece.)
I have never heard the term “growlies” before, but I like it. If you have the growlies today, I hope you can eat a nice apple from the farmer’s market. Or if you are lucky like me, your growlies can be satisfied at a fabulous tea party with a beautiful bride and wonderful friends.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) just divulged this little tidbit on the Senate floor: he prefers canned asparagus to the fresh stuff. He said he’s a bit embarrassed about it, but he didn’t get fresh vegetables growing up in Searchlight, Nev.

I think a can of asparagus might still be acceptable under the new lobbying limits. Send them to him at the U.S. Capitol.