Empty calories in costly 2012 farm bill?

USDA/Greensgrow Farms

With the help of a USDA grant, Greensgrow Farms has used this truck to supply residents of the Camden/Philadelphia area with fresh affordable foods.

Article Highlights

  • Nutrition programs in #farmbill will cost in excess of $90 billion a year under any serious plan

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  • 15 different U.S. food and nutrition programs serve about one in four Americans. #moneywellspent?

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  • 2012 farm bill likely to cut welfare checks to farmers by about 7 percent

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No one knows whether there will be a 2012 farm bill.  Right now, the best guess is that one will be written sometime after Nov. 6, when a new Congress has been elected, and most likely in 2013. 

At this point, no one is very sure about what the new farm legislation will include but almost everyone agrees that less will be spent on farm subsidies, with annual cuts to welfare checks to farmers of at least $1.5 million (about a 7 percent reduction). Conceivably, much larger reductions could be made if a serious federal deficit reduction package is developed. 

What we do know, however, is that nutrition programs -- food stamps, school lunches, WIC, etc. -- will take up the lion’s share of farm bill funding, well in excess of $90 billion a year (over 80 percent of total farm bill outlays) under almost every serious proposal.  

Under any public policy criteria – spending, number of families affected by the program, impact on the reelection of congressional members – nutrition programs will be the most significant components of any new farm bill.

On Thursday, agricultural economists Daniel Sumner and Laurian Unnevehr and Barry Goodwin of North Carolina State University will be at AEI to discuss whether the 15 different U.S. food and nutrition programs that serve about one in four Americans is money well-spent, or whether U.S. food policy is harming the health of America's neediest.

Alston and fellow agricultural economists Daniel Sumner and Laurian Unnevehr will discuss the effectiveness of current food policy and proposed reforms such as taxing foods according to fat or sugar content.

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