House passes farm bill – ‘rewards mega-agribusinesses and Wall Street,’ not the people or planet

"The GOP Farm Bill is a disaster for people and the planet."

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Image Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

In a 213 to 211, the House of Representatives passed a farm bill that’s left many wondering who Congress really works for. H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 is said to benefit the agribusiness over ordinary farmers.

“The Farm Bill rewards mega-agribusinesses and Wall Street, while slashing funding for nutrition, rural agriculture development, and clean energy programs, cutting key agricultural research and development efforts critically needed to help fight invasive species like the coffee berry borer, macadamia felted coccid, and more,” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, (D-Hawaii), said.

The bill, which was opposed by every House Democrat and 20 Republicans, passed on Thursday. But many say the bills provisions harm endangered species, jeopardize land conservation and effect many food-stamp recipients, EcoWatch reported.

The two major ways the bill would effect endangered species is by “axing a requirement that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assess a pesticide’s impact on endangered species before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves it and relax the Clean Water Act’s provision that anyone releasing pesticides into waterways obtain a permit,” EcoWatch reported.

Many see this as a major win for the pesticide industry, who reportedly spent $43 million in Congressional lobbying this past year.

“The GOP Farm Bill is a disaster for people and the planet,” Lisa Archer, environmentalist from Friends of the Earth, said. “Any member of Congress that voted for this bill is prioritizing the interests of corporations over the health of the American people.”

It would also harm the environment and add to climate change by progressing logging and mining in Alaskan forests, experts said. The new farm bill will no longer promote land conservation as it’s provisions would drop the Conservation Stewardship program, which promotes conservation of land through provided funding to farmers who practice such a technique, Environment America reported.

“House Republican leaders have decided to gamble with farmers’ crucial government support by attaching dangerous policy riders to the farm bill,” Brian Siu, Federal Affairs Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council , said in a statement. “These would put Americans’ health at risk, pollute our waters, and imperil bees, monarch butterflies, and other bedrock species.”

Another provision of the bill would drop around 2 million Americans from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also referred to as food stamps. Many believe this provision of the bill to be “cruel” as it will leave low-income families and the elderly as well as many people with serious health conditions at risk of losing food assistance if they don’t prove to the government that they meet the monthly hours worked or belong to specific work programs in a certain time frame.

“Republicans are waging war on anti-poverty and anti-hunger programs,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky, (D-Ill.), said.

While many don’t believe the House’s version of the bill will pass into law, the Senate is working on a 2018 farm bill that will maintain the SNAP program and includes many environmental protections, Reuters reported. The Senate’s competing bill would also “include funding for mental health services and research into organic agriculture,” Common Dreams reported

“For the most part, the Senate is pursuing a serious, bipartisan measure that would support farmers and those needing help buying food. We look forward to working with lawmakers to help pursue that approach,” Siu said.

 

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