The Farm Bill

The other day I read a bumper sticker that said, “No farmers. No food.” Think about that for second. Better yet, think about where your food comes from—DON’T SAY THE SUPERMARKET! I’ll put it bluntly, without farmers we’d be in a pickle.

That’s why Dr. Fuhrman forwarded me this message from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. It’s about the farm bill, which directly effects farmers and ultimately impacts us, the consumer. Here’s some of the email:
We need to gather congressional support for the “Fairness in Farm and Food Policy” amendment, which will be offered by Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Earlier this month, we contacted you about HR 2720 (also known as FARM 21). Reps. Kind and Flake have taken many of the provisions from FARM 21 and put them in this new amendment. The amendment would limit government subsidies of unhealthy foods, cut subsidies to millionaire farmers, and provide more money for nutrition and food assistance programs for Americans and impoverished children overseas.
Hey, I’m for anything that gets people eating and living healthier. Now, just this Wednesday the bill was heard on the floor of the House of Representatives. Check out the transcript for commentary by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns:
The whole idea here is that we are going to reauthorize a Farm Bill. The Farm Bill covers a number of areas. As you know we cover commodities to conservation to energy to research, trade, food stamps, rural development. This is the year -- if we don't pass the Farm Bill this year, literally we revert back to the 1949 Farm Bill, which nobody wants to do. We want to get a Farm Bill to the finish line this year.


Just as a quick refresher, this is how our money is allocated here at the USDA. The vast majority of our funding goes into food assistance programs. About 26 percent goes into the commodity programs based upon '06 budget outlays, actual outlays. And then the rest is spread about in conservation, international, rural development, research, and other programs.

I said this many times -- I have a history with the 2002 Farm Bill. I was the Governor of Nebraska when it was written. The 2002 Farm Bill, I believe, was the right policy for the times. I supported it. I was lead governor for Western Governors on the reauthorization of the Farm Bill. I was co-lead with Tom Vilsack of Iowa for Midwest Governors. And as I said, I supported it in 2002.

Why was it the right policy for the times? Well, commodity prices were low. Exports had declined for five straight years. The debt-to-asset ratio was not good; it was at about 15 percent for farmers. So the 2002 Farm Bill came in and it provided support. It was the first-ever Farm Bill with an energy title.
For background on the Farm Bill, visit The United States Department of Agriculture.
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