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Good Food Social Web
New Farm Bill Favors Sustainable
Teens Learn Skills Socializing Online
and Organic Farming
A three-year digital youth project study of 800 young peo-
ple and their parents, funded by the John D. and Catherine
For most of its 70-plus year
T. MacArthur Foundation, shows that America’s youth are
history, the term ‘farm bill’
developing important social and technical skills online—
has conjured vast acreages
often in ways adults do not understand or value. The
of uniform rows of subsi-
research confirms that young people are learning much
dized corn and soybeans
from their peers online using new kinds of public spaces,
stretching toward the
such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube, to interact and
horizon. Once the purview
receive feedback. They appear more motivated to learn
of a few farmers and fewer
from each other than from adults.
big agriculture lobbyists,
The study, conducted by the University of Southern
today, everyday people
California and the University of California, Berkeley, also
have started to notice that
found that most youths are not taking full advantage of the
federal farm legislation is
learning opportunities of the Internet.
also about the quality of
our food and the environ-
ment. The attention of these conscientious eaters is
making a difference.
Last May, the most recent farm bill—the $300 bil-
lion Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008—was
signed into law. The good news is that this new bill
gives greater support than ever before to sustainable
farming and food systems.
Yes, additional measures are still needed to make
healthy food and sustainable farming practices a more
central focus of legislation. But organic farming has
received a big boost, thanks to grassroots efforts. Jim
Crawford, who has owned and operated New Morning
Farm, in south-central Pennsylvania, since 1972, sees
the recent changes as a good thing.
“The cost of certifying organic can be prohibi-
tive if you are a beginning farmer,” Crawford explains,
“when, for three years, you are using organic methods,
but still getting paid conventional prices.” He says that
is the reason why many of his neighbors ultimately
decide not to convert. Crawford considers helpful new
farm bill programs as imperative in ensuring that U.S.
producers can meet consumers’ rising demand for
organic foods.
Among other provisions, the current farm bill
provides individual producers up to $750 to offset the
average $1,000 cost of certifying organic. Another new
program provides up to $20,000 a year in financial as-
sistance to support conservation practices related to the
transition from conventional to organic systems. This, ac-
cording to Crawford and others, goes a long way toward
making the conversion to organic tenable for farmers. It
all means that more healthy, sustainably produced food
will be available to the public.
To learn more, visit and
check out the National Sustainable Agriculture Coali-
tion’s Grassroots Guide to the 2008 Farm Bill.
Pr i n t e d o n re c y c l e d Pa P e r t o Pr o t e c t t h e en v i r o n m e n t
August 2009 9
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