Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chocolate & the New Farm Bill

As I read the Harry Potty books aloud to my children, I often chuckled over the healing power of chocolate (and wished someone would prescribe some for me). Now that I'm over forty, I have a chocolate stash, a variation of dark chocolate with nuts, for those days when nothing else cures what ails me, namely hormones. I once feared having chocolate easily accessible, but now when I need it, I need it.

My years in Japan dissolved my liking of the super sweet. I find American treats to be cloying with their overt emphasis on the sweetness whether it is from sugar or other sweeteners. I avoid most of the other sweeteners for various reasons (I cried myself silly reading this review of gummy bears made with a substitute). Instead, I seek out small batch producers who use ingredients I can pronounce and pure cane sugar.

I read of the new farm bill compromise, just out from committee, continuing the sugar industry price protections with dismay (see link above). 

The bill cuts food stamps programs, morphs the unpopular direct payments to farmers whether they grow crops or not into an insurance program for corporate crop failures, and continues to keep the price of sugar artificially higher in the States, pushing American soda and candy makers toward the use of  high fructose corn syrup.

I wonder how this new farm bill will effect those in the hills of Ohio, one of the poorest areas in the country. The hills prevent large scale farming. However, hill farmers are small producers, and they accept food stamps at the farmers market. There are no protections for those that will lose food stamp customers. 

Food stamp benefits will be reduced by eighty dollars (per month). I have yet to put myself on a food stamp budget, but from all accounts it is already difficult. Corporations will see changes in the names of their welfare programs; individual human beings in need will just receive less.

This farm bill is expected to be passed by Congress and will be in effect for five years (unless there is the unlikely event where Americans wake up in mass and ask that individuals be protected over corporations). 

I'll keep shopping at the farmers market, searching out root beer made with cane sugar (for occasionally consumption), and restoring my equilibrium with the perfect dark chocolate bar as needed for superior mental health. Meanwhile, be prepared to step up food bank donations over the next five years.