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Every five years, approximately, a monster piece of legislation known as the Farm Bill — hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, restrictions, and price controls — gets renewed and sets our food policy. The Senate version is 1010 pages long, featuring a few good ideas and many more programs designed to funnel cash to major food producers and corporations. Republican Senator John McCain has viciously mocked and attacked what he sees as ridiculous giveaways, but runs the risk of  mocking serious science. Here’s a sampling of the Farm Bill pork that will be doled out, ranging from the stupid to the scientific.

$200 Million For “Got Milk?” Abroad And Whiskey Samples In India

The Market Access Program, as it is known, “forms a partnership between non-profit U.S. agricultural trade associations, farmer cooperatives, non-profit state-regional trade groups, small businesses, and USDA to share the costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities.” Basically, we’re funding the international ad budget of American dairy companies and meatpackers.

Protect Popcorn!

The price of popcorn has increased 40 percent  in the last year, and Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns, who has a close relationship with agribusiness giant ConAgra, has proposed a new program to prop up poppers to the tune of $91 million in subsidies over the next 10 years.

The Vietnam Catfish War Continues

Southern catfish farmers are attempting to restrict imports of cheap Vietnamese catfish. It’s just the most recent chapter in a long, obscure battle.

Researching Moth Pheromones

A target of McCain’s rage: $700 million for “Agriculture and Food Research Initiative”, which funds, among many other things, studies of moth pheromones. But tinkering with those pheromones may prevent moths from wreaking havoc on entire fields of walnuts, apples, and other crops.

Preserving Nature Is Less Important Than Protecting Popcorn

The USDA will set aside $40 million in grants intended to encourage private landowners to use the land for bird watching or hunting.


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