Congress votes today on the collection of legislation and subsidies that make up the farm bill. There have been increasing calls for the reform of this artifact of the New Deal which many say now is out of date and protects large farms at the expense of consumers' health.
In his April article for the New York Times Magazine Michael Pollan argues that the farm bill's subsidization of five major commodities - corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and cotton - foster an economy that supports processed food at the expense of healthier whole foods. He quotes a researcher who found...
...that in a typical grocery store, $1 could buy 1200 calories of cookies but only 250 calories of carrots. That dollar could buy 875 calories of soda but only 170 calories of orange juice.
What does this have to do with the farm bill? It's cheaper to use these subsidized foods than to grow carrots - especially organic carrots. The Christian Science Monitor points this out and a few other criticisms of the current state of the farm bill in its call for reform. See specific reforms here that Bread for the World was lobbying for, including more equitable distribution of these subsidies to true small farms.
Will this be the year that some things change? If you really want to jump into the current state of the bill up for a vote today, check out this transcript of a tele-conference held yesterday with Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.
Also good reading: the Washington Post article Harvesting Cash: A Year-Long Investigation into Farm Subsidies.