Down on the Farm

Seven blocks from the Sojourners office, in a gravel lot by the Metro station, the Columbia Heights farmers market is open for business. It’s a frosty morning near the end of the season, the shoppers are wearing parkas, and all the farmers have pumpkins for sale. At one stand advertising "fresh eggs from happy chickens," a woman hands a bag of apples to the farmer. He grins. "Throw in a squash and I’ll make it five bucks." She picks out a butternut and pays him with a five dollar coupon that he’ll trade in for cash at the end of the day.

A few miles away on Capitol Hill, the farm bill’s up for vote again. As usual, environmental, agriculture, and food security groups are lobbying furiously and corporate execs are striking deals in back rooms. The farm bill, revised every few years, ties together everything from commodity subsidies to wetland conservation to food stamps to export regulation. It allocates billions of dollars annually, occasionally to fund creative initiatives like the Farmers Market Nutrition Program—which guarantees profits for local farmers and provides fresh veggies to WIC moms in neighborhoods like Columbia Heights. More often, however, farm bill dollars end up in the wrong hands.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 2002
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