Most consumers are familiar with the USDA (US Department of Agriculture).
We are aware that the USDA is the federal executive department responsible for developing and executing federal laws related to farming, forestry, and food.
The Agriculture Act, better known as the Farm Bill, is important legislation that provides authorization for services and programs that impact every American. It is reauthorized every 5 years which is why we seem to hear about it in the news frequently.
But do you know how far reaching specific components of the Farm Bill really are and how it might impact your wallet or the food on your table?
Those in the know say the Farm Bill “covers many different topics of importance to Americans.”
Impacts of Farm Bill
The Farm Bill is due to expire in September and is currently under scrutiny from lawmakers in both the House and Senate. What will change once it is passed remains a concern for many interested in food and nutrition issues.
Rep. Bob Gibbs states that the Farm Bill ensures that consumers have food that is grown and produced close to home.
Rep. Rick Crawford emphasizes the importance of investing in the farm bill in order to maintain strong national security. “We’re not only investing in rural America in a variety of ways, but really investing in our own food security, which means national security.”
Some of the things the Farm Bill does:
- Promotes communities across the country by expanding opportunities in agriculture; creates jobs
- Protects vital food assistance programs that benefit millions of Americans, perhaps even someone in your own family; authorizes SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) and the fight against hunger; helping families and seniors access food at the same time they support farm and rural economies; supports farmer’s market programs; commodity food distribution
- Supports science-based health information through Dietary Guidelines process
- Influences National School Lunch program to provide children with healthy foods to prevent childhood obesity
- Creates a safety net for farmers and ranchers with education, training, crop insurance, disaster programs, loans, grants, rural development, etc.
- Promotes conservation efforts with farmers, ranchers, and producers to protect soil and water; invests in conservation, restoration and management of working lands and wildlife habitats
- Helps expand export markets for US products abroad which strengthens our economy and keeps our food costs from increasing; tariff supports for imports and assistance for exports affected by increased overseas trade tariffs
- Invests in research for agricultural innovations; sustains Extension Offices and community education
- Supports food hubs and over 800 local and regional food projects
- Supports the Forest Service, maintaining parks for our recreation and forests that help clean our air by removing carbon
- Advances bioeconomy, investing in the next generation of advanced biofuels; authorizes renewable energy programs including the Renewable Energy for America
- Ensures, via Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, new pesticides are evaluated for harm to species and those wanting to release pesticides into our water systems get permission
- As proposed, would help fund high-speed broadband access in rural areas for telemedicine and distance learning
What Does That Have to Do with You?
The Farm Bill isn’t just about the farm but about our food system as a whole.
Maybe you think that, because you don’t get food assistance in the form of SNAP benefits or commodity surplus food donations, you have no reason to care about the Farm Bill.
You aren’t a farmer so don’t use the loans, grants, education or other farm supports either.
The biggest reason that everyone should know about agriculture and the strength of American farmers is that we all need a dependable food supply.
We all depend on a safe, affordable, and abundant food supply.
Abraham Lincoln said, when he created the Agriculture Department, that is was the People’s Department because it affected people’s lives in many ways.
Protect Our Food and Those Who Provide It
We all need food to survive.
We can’t control the weather, so we can’t ensure crops don’t wilt in drought conditions or perish in a rainy season. We are lucky that our country is diverse and vast because not every food can grow well in every state. We are fortunate that we get corn in the Midwest, fruit from the west coast, vegetables from the south, and seafood from the northeast.
Keeping the farmers, ranchers, and producers of the food we depend on for our sustenance strong is vital.
The Farm Bill helps do that for us. It gives us confidence that we will have affordable food to feed our families or help when something happens preventing us from providing nourishment to our families.
We also know that someone is looking to the future of our earth conserving soil, water and endangered species. These are issues we must band together to overcome.
I recently attended a canning class at my local County Extension office. It helped me learn to use the produce in my home garden to sustain me when gardening wasn’t possible in the winter. It was a great experience which I highly recommend. Farm Bill supported extension offices are a wealth of information for home gardeners and homeowners.
We all reap the benefits of a strong Farm Bill!