Keith Good, editor at FarmPolicy.com, is a farm bill insider - trolling the media for any and all reports, pulling choice quotes from dispatches, and even posting audio from Congressional hearings and from his own interviews. It's wonky but fascinating.
I was especially interested in this comment Good highlighted from a Senate Ag Committee hearing. North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad, who also chairs the Senate BudgetCommittee, complained bitterly about a series of Washington Post articles entitled ‘Harvesting Cash’ that have painted a highly critical picture of federal farm programs. (We've blogged on WaPo's reports, including one on how USDA loan payments are paying for resort town improvements, and highly recommend it).
“‘You know, one of the things that struck me about these articles - you don’t see much reference to the cost of food in this country - the lowest cost of food in this country of any country in the history of mankind,’ Conrad railed. ‘You don’t see much reference to a plentiful and healthy supply of food - you don’t see much reference to that. You don’t see much reference to the health of the agricultural sector in this country. You don’t see much reference to the fact that we are a major exporter for this nation - you don’t see much reference to that,’ he continued. ‘You don’t see much reference to what is the true status of most farm families, at least as I know it in my state.’”
Sen. Conrad's obviously not reading the same stuff we're reading about e. coli outbreaks, contaminated peanut butter, subsidies that enrich the richest farmers, including those who reside in Washington, D.C., the continued demise of smaller farmers, the depopulation of rural areas, the high rates of obesity linked to cheap processed food - the list goes on and on - much of it the result of subsidies too complex for most people to figure out, let alone care about.
To get behind the Post series - and what motivated it - check out this Mp3 audio interview Good had with Post series reporter Dan Morgan last year. "By and large, we've had a lot of positive feedback from farmers, and from the agriculture community who understand the series is not about beating up on farmers," Morgan says. "It's about trying to identify and spotlight flaws in the program, and ways that the money could be used better, to the benefit of farmers."