Farmer or not, the Farm Bill works for you
Here’s some food for thought: The Food and Farm Bill isn’t just for farmers and ranchers. It’s a federal program that works for every American, regardless of whether you live on a small farm, a large ranch, in a rural community, or the nation’s biggest coastal cities. Thanks to how the farm bill works, you are spending less of your paycheck for food than residents of any other country in the world. Also, you have access to a food supply that is incredibly safe and secure.
The Food and Farm Bill includes programs that invest in rural development, support beginning farmers and ranchers, fund ag research and conservation programs, underwrite crop insurance, and help provide a safety net that helps producers work through difficult times due to crop failures and collapsing market prices. This safety net works as well for the rural communities that depend on the economic health of agriculture by keeping farm and ranch families in business. It is important that Congress strengthen the safety net in the next food and farm bill.
The total USDA budget accounts for less than four percent of the entire federal budget. That’s right. Of every dollar spent by Congress, just a few pennies go to the United States Department of Agriculture. And for every dollar in the USDA budget, only 20 cents will be earmarked for the commodity safety net, underwriting crop insurance, and other programs specifically for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. The Farm and Food Bill is a bargain.
Congress is working on the 2018 Food and Farm Bill. We’ve already let the congressional delegations in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming know what our priorities are as a general farm organization. We also have concerns that the emerging priorities on Capitol Hill may significantly change proven policies and siphon off USDA funds to pay for everything from tax cuts to any increase in military spending. Farm bills typically are written every five years. The last two farm bills were mostly drafted “across the aisle,” meaning the House and Senate Ag committees (Democrats and Republicans) worked to develop policies and programs that worked for the common good of America’s heartland.
Those bills were written to reduce federal spending on farm programs, and it worked. The last farm bill was written during a time of high commodity prices. Both farm production and commodity prices were strong, overall. Today farm income is expected to be half of what it was five years ago. For some farmers and ranchers, this situation already is a reality, and the immediate future does not hold the promise of a change for the better.
The bottom line for farmers, ranchers, rural communities, and consumers in Denver and Dallas and D.C. is this: we need Congress to pass a Food and Farm Bill this year.
When President Lincoln in 1862 created the United States Department of Agriculture, he called it the “people’s department” because USDA’s mission and its impact was (and is) far-reaching across geographic, economic, and social landscapes. Agriculture is America’s most essential industry. Farmers and ranchers provide food security, economic activity, and are one of the few industries that shines when it comes to U.S. exports. Agriculture creates more than one of every ten jobs in America.
What can you do? Speak up. Let people know the Food and Farm Bill must be reauthorized.