The massive farm bill making its way through Congress will only perpetuate social and environmental sustainability. What's also needed is legislation to boost the urban economics of local food production, writes Christopher Cook.
"Congress is rapidly deciding the fate of America's food supply: what's grown, how it's produced and by whom, and how that food will affect our health and the planet. [T]he big picture is not pretty: increasingly centralized power over food, abetted by lax antitrust policies and farm subsidies that provide the meat industry and food-processing corporations with cheap raw ingredients; huge subsidies for corn and soy, most of which ends up as auto fuel, livestock feed, and additives for junk food, fattening America's waistlines while soiling the environment; and, despite organic food's rising popularity, a farming system that's still heavily reliant on toxic pesticides (500,000 tons per year), which pollute our waterways and bloodstreams while gobbling up millions of gallons of fossil fuel. As a nation we consume (quite literally) some 100 billion gallons of oil annually in the making and long-distance transport of our food supply."
"But even as the congressional Farm Bill battles grind toward a mostly disconcerting conclusion, it's not too soon to look beyond this omnivore's omnibus, and begin considering a national movement of progressive urban food bills. Cities and states have enormous purchasing power and are slowly taking the lead: San Francisco's Department of Public Health is devising sustainable procurement policies to buy more local and organic produce; some city and state food policy councils, such as Minnesota's, are helping smaller organic farmers survive by linking them up with urban markets; and the California Assembly last year passed a pilot measure to help develop new fresh produce markets in poor neighborhoods."
"Change is coming piecemeal on the local level, and needs a serious booster shot. A movement of progressive urban food bills could help galvanize and expand local efforts and create a new food infrastructure that truly sustains our health, ecologies and economies - and could help buck the trend toward increasingly monopolistic supermarkets that eschew poor districts and shut out small farmers and food companies."