Some thoughts on the 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act

I’m pleased to share with you a guest post from another intern here at New Entry. A senior at Brookline High School, Rachel Baras heads the hunger committee for SAJE — Student Action for Justice and Education. And as an advocate for social justice, Rachel strongly encourages you to purchase fair trade chocolate when given a choice.
2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act
Some of you may be aware that this past year, our country’s Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 underwent adjustment to become the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. Among other changes, the bill provides increased support for agricultural research, ethanol production, and food stamps. The bill also continues our government’s controversial subsidy system, as a result of which the small, local farmers continue to have to compete at an uneven playing field with the country’s major agricultural corporations. As you can see, there are benefits and drawbacks to the bill, and even these benefits and drawbacks are not clearly positive or negative. For instance, agricultural research may sound good (and often is good), yet sometimes the resulting innovations prove to be highly detrimental to our earth. The production of ethanol, which is hailed as the alternative fuel of the future, is yet another incentive for the continuation of soil-depleting monoculture.
One element of the 2008 Act that we here at New Entry are glad about is the increased support for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers. One element of the 2002 Act, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, is gaining $78 in funding over the course of 4 years. An additional $5 million will be used from 2008 through 2012 to train beginning farmers in business, finance, land tenure options, and marketing, among other topics. Further, the New Farmer Individual Development Accounts Pilot Program allows the Farm Service Agency to coordinate with nonprofits in matching funds to beginning farmers’ savings accounts. Another major breakthrough is the $75 million (over the course of 4 years) that will be used to provide training, outreach, grants, and overall assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. They, in turn, can become owners and operators of farms and ranches.
These major amendments to the 2002 Act are further reminder that we’re on the right track. Sure, it seems like the large corporations are gaining more and more power, and it’s true that a lot of them really are. But there are always those (like you!) who push for more sustainable and equitable farming practices. It is so exciting to live at this time – great changes are occurring right before our eyes. What are your main hopes for the future of agriculture?

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