Commentary: Why should we care about the farm bill?

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Editor's note: The following commentary was written by Jessica Domel, field editor for the Texas Farm Bureau Federation.

If you like food, you should support the farm bill.

The Senate voted for a new farm bill on Monday and action now shifts to the House. I’ve been keeping up with the farm bill’s progress in Washington, D.C., and I found myself asking others on our staff, “What does this mean for the typical American consumer?”

I have some answers for you.

The irony of the farm bill is that only about 20 percent of its funding is for farm-related programs. But that 20 percent is vital to American farmers. Without the funding provided through federally subsidized crop insurance, many farmers would probably have to leave the business.

Why do farmers need crop insurance? One word–risk.

What other business puts a seed in the ground and waits three to five months for a return. That farmer has seed costs, fertilizer costs, possibly pesticide costs if he has weed or bug problems, and some farmers have irrigation costs. And every crop can be challenged by Mother Nature in the form of drought, hail and floods. All of his investment can be wiped out in a minute.

But the farm bill is about more than farmers. It’s about food.

By helping with crop insurance, we ensure American farmers and ranchers stay in business so we don’t have to import foods from other countries–countries that may not have the strict food standards that we have in place.

We ensure that those in need have access to food as well through food assistance programs.

In this country, we decided long ago that we want children in our schools to be adequately fed and prepared to learn every day. The school lunch program is in the farm bill. The food stamp program is in the farm bill. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program is in the farm bill. These programs assist people who, for one reason or another, need help to provide food for their families.

The farm bill is also a jobs bill. Did you know 16 million American jobs are dependent upon agriculture? Those aren’t just people driving tractors and picking fruits and vegetables. Those are people driving trucks, stocking shelves, waiting tables and serving food. Those jobs are dependent upon the stability of U.S. agriculture, which is dependent upon this bill.

So why should we be for the farm bill? Because we like food. We like American farmers. We like having a safe, abundant food supply that is more affordable than any other country in the world.

So if you haven’t already, tell your representative in Washington, D.C. to vote yes for the farm bill.

Need help finding your legislator? The CapWiz Legislative Action Center can point you in the right direction.

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Batavia, NY  |  June, 13, 2013 at 10:55 AM

"What other business puts a seed in the ground and waits three to five months for a return." Is this some kind of a joke?? EVERY business has an operational risk. If they need insurance for something, they buy it. They do not expect congress to force the taxpayer to subsidize them.

Madison, wi  |  June, 13, 2013 at 05:39 PM

Batavia, NY: I appreciate your comment on operational risk since I help assess risk at the bank I work for. While every business has operational risk, no other business I'm aware of has 100% risk to weather every year. Food production is a commodity business. Subsidized premiums do make the business proposition of farming more manageable for new entrants, smaller businesses, and the like. Some established farms of all sizes choose to self insure through savings accounts, bank lines of credit, or other strategies. If you'd like to discuss more about risk please respond.

Batavia, NY  |  June, 14, 2013 at 12:05 PM

The market needs to do a better job of providing insurance against this risk. The best way is to have a better price for these commodities and then savings accounts and credit will provide better insurance against weather loses. While the taxpayer continues to subsidize insurance the market never will. Instead the market will continue to take as much as it can and also lobby for more taxpayer largess. Then it will become another form of welfare. The government will never be able to set the correct level of profit for any industry. The market needs to do this. The Dairy Security Act will certainly be a fiasco.

Illinois  |  June, 17, 2013 at 12:12 PM

Whoa -- wait just a minute Elsa! In fact every business has 100% risk to weather if you want to get all fiduciary about it. If you don't think so just ask that amusement park owner in New Jersey if hurricane Sandy didn't put a hurtin' on him. Or drift on down to New Oleans and see if some of those little businesses didn't fold up for good after the hurricane there. Or how about some of those folks in Oklahoma who were in the path of those tornadoes? Of course farmers appear to be more exposed to weather risk because we can't physically shelter our assets. But it is a myth farmers are only one or two seasons away from certain destruction at the hands of Mother Nature. Obviously you work at one of those Wall Street affiliated banks Elsa. Why would we trust you to "manage our risk" for us? Didn't you guys manage the risk of tens of millions of home owners and 401K owners leading up to their cruel bilking in 2008? No thanks Elsa. Keep your expensive predatory risk management strategies to yourself, thanks.

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