Famous Foodies Unite to Pressure Congress on the Farm Bill

Dan Imhoff, Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Josh Viertel, Marion Nestle and others lend their voices to reform movement.

Michael Pollan is among the food luminaries who have signed on to the effort. (Photo: Getty Images)

Jun 4, 2012· 2 MIN READ
Clare Leschin-Hoar's stories on seafood and food politics have appeared in Scientific American, Eating Well and elsewhere.

Over at Grist, food editor Twilight Greenaway says the 2012 Farm Bill needs a hero. She’s right. While Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., championed the first go-around when the bill was under her leadership in the Senate Agriculture Committee, much of what she had to accomplish was done with both political hands tied behind her back. “Compromise” was the word she used frequently during a speech in Monterey recently.

But Dan Imhoff, author of Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill, isn’t counting on a single lawmaker to be his hero. He’s looking at you. And to catch your attention, and the attention of lawmakers in the House who are expected to take up the Farm Bill in the coming weeks, Imhoff is rallying the nation’s sustainable food luminaries.

Along with Anna Lappe and Kari Hamerschlag of the Environmental Working Group, Imhoff has crafted a letter signed by the likes of Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Josh Viertel, Marion Nestle and dozens more, intent on getting it into the hands of every member of the Senate before the Farm Bill reaches the Senate floor later this summer.

“Everything is attached to the Farm Bill in some way,” he tells TakePart. “We can only shine the brightest light on the process of what’s going on.”

What’s going on is complex and troublesome for those who care about diversity of crops; food assistance for some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens; conservation programs; rural development; and more.

The public letter, which was released Tuesday, goes into detail about the dire need for reform, and pointedly reminds lawmakers that voters will remember which members of Congress supported a healthy food and farm bill come November.

“[The Farm Bill] is also seriously out of step with the nation’s priorities and what the American public expects and wants from our food and farm policy,” the letter says.

“Although the committee proposal includes important reforms to the commodity title, we are deeply concerned that it would continue to give away subsidies worth tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to the largest commodity crop growers and agribusinesses even as it drastically underfunds programs to promote the health and food security of all Americans, invest in beginning and disadvantaged farmers, revitalize local food economies and protect natural resources. We strongly object to any cuts in food assistance during such dire times for so many Americans.”

The letter also specifically addresses crop insurance, wetlands protection, affordable fruits and vegetables, and subsidies that go to the largest commodity crop growers while important programs that directly impact American’s health are drastically underfunded.

In addition to getting the letter to every member of the Senate, Imhoff says a Kickstarter effort will be launched in the next few weeks to raise approximately $100,000 to place a one-page advertisement in the Washington Post to further promote awareness of the bill’s importance, and to pressure lawmakers to listen to constituents over the interests of “big ag.”

“It’s extremely ambitious,” he says. “But the only way we’re ever going to put pressure for this bill to change is with lots of citizen input outside the committee.”

What are you doing to try to change our food system for the better?