In honor of April Fool’s Day… the following is a fictitious press release by Nick Reid that we wish were was actually factual:
In a press conference yesterday on Capitol Hill, Sen. Bernie Sanders announced his sponsorship of a bill that he describes as “part economic stimulus plan, part environmental protection bill and part Farm Bill reform”. The “Food for Change Bill” is actually a tax reform initiative that would allow certain food items to be considered tax-deductible expenditures. It is designed to increase the sales of socially- and environmentally-responsible food produced by small family farms.
Sen. Sanders spoke at a press conference, “America needs an economic stimulus plan that promotes sustainable agriculture, local economies and environmental responsibility. Family farms are an American institution and a pillar of our national heritage; today they are being strangled by corporate interests and agro-industrial parks that serve only to consolidate wealth into the hands of a few on Wall Street. Our food system is taking money away from the families and rural communities that need it most, while rewarding practices that are environmentally and socially destructive; practices that rely on genetically-modified crops, chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and irrigation practices that are draining our national aquifers beyond repair.”
“We must get our food – the very foundation of our existence -out of the hands of the corporate tyrants who have driven us to the economic and environmental crises we now face, and into the hands of the families and communities who have been swept aside in our race for cheap, chemically-enhanced food. We must see the value of vibrant, diverse farming communities, not only as the cradles of our civilization and producers of healthy, wholesome food, but as the backbone of stable, vibrant local economies.”
The Senator continued, “What is organic? Why do we choose to label food that is grown naturally, and not the food that is grown using chemicals and genetic manipulation? There is nothing conventional about Red Dye #5! Organic food one hundred years ago was called food! Why would you buy milk from a mechanized, Orwellian dairy lot the size of a small city, thousands of miles away, while local family-owned dairies are struggling to stay in business? Why shouldn’t the government support producers, retailers and consumers whose actions preserve the land and decrease CO2 emissions?! Why should our tax dollars go to subsidizing agro-behemoths, and not small family farmers?”
“Here’s an example”, Senator Sanders remarked, “Organic Valley is a dairy co-operative that represents over 1,300 organic, family-owned dairy farms across the country. Those members are practicing healthy, sustainable techniques in harmony with the land. The milk they produce is better for the environment and healthier than chemically and hormone-enhanced milk; and the profits from OV sales are distributed among the farmers and their communities in the higher premium for their milk. Americans should be encouraged to purchase those products, educated about the difference between organic milk and non-organic, and rewarded for their role in building healthier eco-systems, stronger communities and local economies.”
“Or, another example, a co-operative of Fair Trade-certified small farmers in Mexico grows their coffee in the UN-designated biosphere, El Triunfo. Their agricultural practices not only preserve the health and diversity of the biosphere, but also reforest the land with endangered plant species and expand organic agricultural production in the region. Consumers who purchase that coffee are not only supporting higher prices for those farmers, but community development, and the environmental preservation of an internationally-recognized world heritage site. Those small farmers should be rewarded, and consumers should be encouraged and rewarded for purchasing that coffee in the same way as if they had donated money to say, The Nature Conservancy, who also works to preserve the Biosphere.”
The bill would allow certain food items, such as those produced by small farmers and small farming co-operatives to count under section 170(c) of the tax code, a sub-section of “charitable contributions”. The implementation of deductions would be facilitated by participating retailers; primarily food co-operatives and independent grocers, many of whom already monitor their members’ sales at the register. In practice, a retailer would track an individual’s purchases of eligible products over the course of a fiscal year, and send a summary of purchases similar to a W-2 or an 8283 Form to be submitted along with an individual’s tax filing.
Sanders insists that the bill will provide consumers with an incentive to purchase not only healthier food for their families, but food with higher social, economic and environmental “value added”. The decrease in tax revenue at the end of the year, he assures, will be mitigated by increased sales of higher-priced food items; while increasing the money that ends up in the hands of thousands of family farms, rural communities and community-owned grocery markets around the world.
While the details surrounding which products will be eligible for tax-deductible status remain uncertain; proponents of the bill are drafting a preliminary roster that includes organic milk, local and organic produce, and Fair Trade-certified products, like coffee and bananas. As Sanders pointed out, “The USDA already certifies our nation’s organic producers; the task of delineating small producers from large-scale, corporate ones should not prove insurmountable. Likewise, co-operatives and independent retailers stand to benefit from higher sales, and from developing the systems to track the sales of eligible products.”
In terms of the “cost” of the bill, the Senator has asked that $100million be allocated to support grocery retailers and farmers’ markets to develop the systems required to track sales by families or individuals, and to subsidize farmers’ markets and food co-operatives over the next five years.
The initiative was initially drafted by a collaboration of non-profit agencies, like Heifer International and the Nature Conservancy, but also food companies, like Equal Exchange and Organic Valley, in addition to the National Cooperative Grocers Association, which represents over 190 community-owned food retailers in the United States.
Unfortunately, this press release is fictitious. Perhaps, with your help we will get there someday.