The forthcoming 2007 Farm Bill was being debated in Washington, D.C. last week. There are many who have worked for the past few years to assure that this legislation becomes one that, hopefully, will even out the playing field for Latino, African American, Asian and Native American farmers and ranchers in this country.
Last week’s resulting Agricultural Committee bill gave little hope for what are designated socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in this country.
The Farm Bill, renewed every five years by the Congress, governs and finances agricultural, food and nutrition, and conservation programs in the U.S. Tens of billions of our tax dollars are budgeted — the majority ending up in the hands of those who need it the least. Giant subsidy programs lavish millions on wealthy corn, rice, sugar and cotton commodity growers while much needed training, marketing and “catch-up” dollars are scarce for the socially disadvantaged producers. Commodity subsidies also distort trade and displace farmers and ranchers in developing countries in Africa and Latin America.
By the end of last week the House Agricultural Committee turned out a bill which kept commodities in place — reinvesting in our system of corporate welfare. Little or no relief was offered for the small farmer. The small amounts doled out for these folks were labeled reform by some.
Who are they trying to kid?
I spent last week in Washington. My mission was to help out, in whatever way I can, to level-out this agricultural playing field. As in my other recent visits to DC, I left our nation’s capital distressed. And questioning our system of “equal justice.”
The halls leading to the offices where our legislators work in these giant Washington, D.C. buildings are wide but seem to figuratively narrow when you show up with people with little money, high expectations, leathery skin from hard work, and dirt under their finger nails. But they widen for ‘lobbies’ represented by mostly men dressed in expensive suits, shiny Italian leather shoes, and big money to spread.
Alvaro F. Fernandez