Ever since a certain presidential candidate invented it, the internet has been changing politics and policy across the board. The Farm Bill is no different.
From blogs like Keith Goods' FarmPolicy.com, to dozens and dozens of organizational blogs authored by organizations working on the Farm Bill, to national blogs about food and ag policy, to regional blogs in farm states, the Farm Bill is being written about, bantered about, and ultimately paid attention to by a lot more people than ever before.
The process is also made more transparent by these blogs and sites like OpenCongress, streaming audio of the House and Senate ag hearing rooms, and easy access to current legislation and past voting records.
That all serves as a long introduction to something that came across my desk today.
Talking Points Memo Cafe is one of the top news, policy, and politics blogs on the internet. They have a section of their site for a rotating guest blogger. This week the guest is Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). He'll be spending the entire week blogging about the Farm Bill, his reform proposals, and answering questions left in the comments on his posts.
Embarking on a campaign to make his case to a larger non-farm, non-rural community Blomenauer opens:
Why devote the time and effort to reform U.S. farm policy, you ask?
Here is an area that doesn't just touch rural America but has profound effects for small towns, suburban communities and bigger cities across the country as well.
It impacts the people working hard to produce the food we eat each day. Sixty percent of America's farmers and ranchers get no support while a great bulk of subsidies and federal support go directly to big special-interest corporations. [snip]
It impacts energy and the environment, affecting water quality and our landscape. Farming is the dominant water user in the United States and farms have room to be a greater generator of energy, not just a huge consumer. [snip]
It impacts our trade policy and how we are viewed in the world. [snip]
That’s why I’m embarking on an effort to promote a Food and Farm Bill of Rights.
Blumenauer continues at some length.
My main point is not what Blumenauer has to say, but rather that he is saying anything at all about the Farm Bill in what seems like such an unlikely forum. The last time the Farm Bill was written the blogosphere was in its infancy, but even two or three years ago if you had told me that the Farm Bill would be well on its way to becoming a mainstream political issue, I doubt I would have believed you.
No matter where you stand in the farm bill debate, I would argue that more transparency, and more people paying attention to this important legislation is ultimately a good thing. I'm sure not everyone will agree, but I'm a fan of an open democratic process. When you lay all of your cards on the table for wide public scrutiny, you are more likely to come away with a farm bill that supports the best that America's farmers, ranchers, and rural communities have to offer.