In a move to boost healthy food for kids, the Senate Agriculture Committee recently approved a proposal to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act – which we fully support, especially such initiatives as the Farm to School program that could significantly improve the availability of healthy foods in our nation’s schools. The unfortunate part of this legislation is it proposes taking funding from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), one of the most successful farmland conservation programs we have. We must remember that we have no food without farmland, and we cannot protect the future of nutritious food without protecting the land that provides it.
That is why American Farmland Trust signed on to two letters last week that were sent to the Senate Agriculture Committee: the first letter seeks support for the Farm to School Program that will enhance existing nutrition programs, while simultaneously cultivating new markets for farmers and stimulating rural economies, while the second letter expresses “deep disappointment” over the proposal to cut the EQIP by over $2.8 billion over the next decade to provide the funds for these child nutrition programs.
We do not want to rob Peter to pay Paul. In order to provide our children with nutritious meals, we must have programs like the Child Nutrition Act that allow greater access to healthy foods. But we must also have the farmland that grows that food- not one or the other. As the letter states, the cuts not only “would rob farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners of conservation and environmental stewardship assistance…but would take away well over $2 billion from the farm bill conservation baseline, or nearly half of the widely-lauded conservation increase in the 2008 Farm Bill.”
While your Senators are home for the Easter break, please call them and tell them we must support both healthy farms AND healthy food, not one or the other. We should pass the Child Nutrition Act and maintain farmland conservation funding. Only then will we truly ensure the future accessibility of healthy food for our children.
About the Author: Jon Scholl is President of American Farmland Trust. Prior to AFT, he served as Counselor to the Administrator for Agriculture Policy at the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Jon and his family operate a corn and soybean farm in McLean County, Illinois.