At the end of September, the House and Senate missed their deadline to agree on a Farm Bill, leaving in limbo the $100 billion worth of programs we spend annually on food assistance and agriculture.
That delay opens the possibility for the country to change course and help avert a global meltdown with policies that could transform the "Corn Belt" into a climate cooling "Carbon Belt."
Current subsidies are supposed to even out the financial ups and downs of crop production and help farmers stay afloat in a competitive global economy.
Instead they've actually created a wasteful and polluting engine of overproduction. There's a cruel irony here. The biggest obstacle farmers face is overproduction, which drives down prices, saturates markets, and shifts the burden of recouping the cost of raising crops to taxpayers.
Most of the ever increasing harvests of corn and soybeans produced by our struggling farmers aren't even eaten directly by humans. They are fed to cattle and used for industrial food ingredients and biofuels.
A substantial amount of the overproduction is also exported. The real winners are the grain traders and meat factories and ethanol distillers and agrochemical corporations whose lobbyists write the Farm Bills and benefit from low commodity prices.
There is a waste crisis as well: 40 percent of the food produced never reaches an eater's plate. Much of it winds up in landfills.
The costs of this status quo are enormous. Agriculture is responsible for as much as 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Industrial farming operations — using copious amounts of energy for transportation and chemical production and raising tens of billions of methane-generating animals in confinement — are a big contributor to the imminent temperature spikes recently projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They gave us just a dozen years to get atmospheric carbon levels under control or face dire consequences.
Continue reading the full op-ed in Environmental Health News.