Rep. Blumenauer: Farm Bill Done Wrong Would Be an ‘Assault on Our Health’

By Ali Meyer | April 21, 2015 | 1:02pm EDT

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) ( Starr)

( - Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) touted the benefits of the farm bill at the National Food Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, saying that if it’s done wrong it is “an assault on our health.”

“This is the most important environmental bill that most Americans have ever heard of, much less think about,” said the congressman. “If it’s done right, it will promote health, community, economic development. Done wrong, it misallocates economic resources, endangers the environment and is an assault on health.

“I have been obsessed with the notion that as a country we pay too much to the wrong people to grow the wrong food in the wrong places often in inappropriate methods,” said Blumenauer. “Life is short. We’ve got major problems that we need to deal with from climate change, the impacts of drought in states like California. We’re deeply concerned about hunger, food insecurity.

“We’ve got an obesity epidemic in this country, and we’re deeply concerned with how to revitalize small, rural, small town communities. These are things that keep us busy in Congress, and I have been struck by how there is an integrated solution,” he added.

Blumenauer also defended government regulation, saying that it “helps everybody in the long run, will cost less and generate more economic activity.”

“Having guidelines, having government work in a harmonized space, helping young farmers get started, helping small and medium-sized producers as I mentioned deal with environmental requirements – I mean I think it’s simple, common sense efforts, but the fact is we’ve allowed this discussion to be hijacked by the professional wordsmiths that work for very large interests that want to protect exactly what happens with ‘king corn’ or ‘big sugar,’’ the congressman said.

“And there are people who’ve been baited, have been somehow convinced that this is an attack on rural America or small town America, big government, even though big government is deeply involved with it right now. That’s why I’m interested in signing our own farm bill, finding ways to get more voices involved, finding opportunities for people to understand where the farm bill is making a difference and where it could make a difference,” he added.

During the question and answer portion, someone from the audience followed Blumenauer’s comments saying, “You’ve mentioned big sugar, big corn. It would seem that by de-legislating those programs to a more free market, which is the opposite of a communist approach, that’s what came to my mind when you mentioned those two programs, which are controlled by government and are artificial.”

“What I think we’re going to find out going through this process in Oregon is being clear already that most of the people I’ve been meeting with - the wine growers, nursery, the folks that do organics what we’re finding is that there’s some common themes that are emerging,” said Blumenauer. “They don’t want to farm the federal government. They don’t want a spigot. What they want is support for environmental compliance.

“They want support for innovation, disease research, for marketing, for tools that will enable people to get in and be able to thrive, not being subsidized. And I think this is the framework the government ought to be providing - giving more people access, providing basic infrastructure, research, market access that helps everybody and in the long run will cost less and generate more economic activity,” he said.

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