Many small farmers in Maine have signed a petition that opposes the federal Farm Bill, which the U.S. House of Representatives aims to tackle before they adjourn next week.
U.S. Public Interest Research Group Maine Advocate Nicole Karatzas said the group has collected 72,000 petitions from citizens across the country and 532 endorsements from small farmers who oppose subsidies for big agriculture. Thirty-three of those small farmers are from Maine.
“There’s nothing in [the bill] for me that I know of,” said Jodie Jordan, who owns Alewive’s Brook Farm in Cape Elizabeth. “I don’t think the government needs to spend any more money on subsidizing large farms.”
The Senate passed a five-year law in June, but awaits consideration from the House. The current law expires on Sept. 30, but Congress wants to adjourn at the end of next week and return after the Nov. 6 election. A one-year measure is being considered, according to Bloomberg News.
The New England Farmers Union gathered on the U.S. Capitol’s Union Square on Wednesday, calling for the House to pass the Farm Bill.
“Producers throughout New England understand the importance of farm bill policies for conservation, energy and local food development support,” said Roger Noonan, New England Farmers Union vice president. “Food banks and schools depend on farm bill legislation to fund hunger and school lunch programs. We need the Congress to pass the 2012 Farm Bill now.”
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group said that between 1995 and 2011, $277 billion of taxpayer money was spent on agricultural subsidies. Those subsidies included production of corn and soy, which is processed to make ingredients for junk food.
“For too long this expensive legislation has worked against the average American’s interests,” said Karatzas. “It has encouraged farms to produce products that are dangerous to our health and has concentrated wealth in the hands of a few big corporate farms.”
Karatzas said she wants to end the practice of subsidizing large farms.
“In this current economic climate, the reauthorization of the Farm Bill should be a straightforward opportunity to end these subsidies and stop sending taxpayer dollars to profitable agribusinesses that don’t need the help,” she said.
South Portland farmer Mary Ellen Chadd of Green Spark Farm echoed Karatzas’ position.
“I don’t get any crop subsidies whatsoever. The crops that are subsidized are soy beans, rice, corn-syrup corn. It’s not edible,” said Chadd, referring to high-fructose corn syrup. “I think we’re hoping that [U.S. Rep.] Chellie Pingree, [D-Maine], will support looking at small-family farms getting more support.”