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Healthy Food and Farm Solutions: Strengthen Healthy Farm Policy

Government can't solve all our food system woes, but it can be a part of the solution. UCS is working to promote policies that will help build a food system that is healthy for everybody—the people who grow our food, the people who eat it, and the soil, water, and air that we all depend on.

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Building a Healthier Farm Bill

The Farm Bill, which comes up for renewal at five-year intervals, authorizes or re-authorizes a multitude of federal programs involving everything from nutrition assistance to soil conservation.

Aside from the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program—formerly known as Food Stamps—the largest expenditures in the bill provide financial support to farmers, either through direct payments or subsidized credit or insurance. In their current form, these subsidies effectively reward farmers for growing commodity crops, and penalize those who grow fruits and vegetables. If we want a healthier food system, this imbalance needs to be fixed.

Subsidy reform, however, is only one of the ways we can make the Farm Bill better. We also need more robust conservation programs, increased investment in local and regional food systems, and more support for research into best practices for sustainable agriculture.

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Supporting Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable agriculture is a system of practical, science-based techniques that successful farmers across America are using to grow healthy food in a way that preserves the health and productivity of the land while minimizing the damaging impacts of industrial agriculture. It's the wave of the future, happening here and now.

However, in a food system still dominated by the industrial model, sustainable farmers face many challenges that forward-looking policy can help them meet. Conservation programs, subsidies, and research budgets can all be expanded or retooled in directions that provide incentives and support for farmers to adopt sustainable practices.

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Investing in Local Food Systems

It's increasingly clear that local and regional food systems, such as farmers markets, food hubs, and farm-to-school programs, are good for the communities they serve. They not only provide access to healthy food; UCS analysis has shown that they also create jobs and stimulate local economic activity.

Policy makers have recently begun taking steps to support local and regional food systems, but these programs need to be expanded and placed on a more permanent footing. Steps like ensuring that nutrition assistance benefits can be redeemed at farmers markets will help both farmers and consumers.

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Preventing Antibiotic Overuse

Overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture is a major contributor to the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance, which makes it harder for health care professionals to treat infectious diseases. Neither voluntary industry initiatives nor existing mechanisms for FDA action seem likely to address the problem in a timely, effective way.

The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) was created to fill this policy void; it will require the FDA to review and either renew or cancel its approvals for the use of antibiotics in animal feed within two years after it becomes law. UCS is one of many organizations, including the American Medical Association, that are calling on Congress to pass PAMTA.

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