What We’re Reading

Here in the Crops office, we like to stay current on local and national issues that impact our work. At our staff meetings, we discuss articles related to urban farming and food policy and try to integrate what we’ve discussed into our efforts to improve Lincoln’s food system.

A recent article in Vanity Fair, Inside Trump’s Cruel Campaign Against the U.S.D.A.’s Scientistsby Michael Lewis is what we’re reading right now. It’s a lengthy, detailed report on the Trump administration’s, at best, lack of attention to food and farming policies (as evidenced by the fact that the last cabinet position to be announced was for Secretary of Agriculture). From appointments of unqualified candidates to important U.S.D.A. positions (i.e. Sam Clovis’ nomination to lead scientific research within the U.S.D.A.) to insisting on eliminating “climate change” from U.S.D.A. reports, Lewis paints a freightening picture of how the future of farming policy and funding at the federal level is very much in question.

Featuring interviews with current and former U.S.D.A. administrators, Lewis provides insight into one of the least well known agencies within the federal government (even by those working within the agency) which oversees everything from meat inspections, to food stamps, school lunches and rural development. With a total annual budget of $164 billion in 2016 and over 100,000 employees, the U.S.D.A. is, typically, a major focus area for new administrations and requires careful orchestration with the outgoing agency leaders.

With the five-year Farm Bill being negotiated in 2018, President Trump will have no option but to pay heed to the importance of food and farming in the lives of all Americans. From school children to multi-national agribusiness owners, we are all impacted by the policies and funding levels set forth in the Farm Bill.

Of particular concern is the very real possibility of the Trump Administration cutting funding for anti-hunger programs, like SNAP/EBT (formerly Food Stamps) and the Women, Infants and Children (or WIC) program. In the recent budget negotiations, President Trump signaled a willingess to cut anti-hunger programs to offset major tax cuts for corporations.

It’s become all too easy to not think about food policy in our daily lives. That reality needs to change.