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What is a farm bill and why should I care?

What is a farm bill and why should I care?

By Gene Hall

What was expected to be the 2012 Farm Bill has been passed this week in the House and awaits action in the Senate. A bitter political battle has pushed the bill all the way to 2014. Farmers, who have a real stake in all this, would like for the rest of us to know why it’s so important.

Opposition to farm legislation usually boils down to very conservative folks who want a pure application of a free market or environmental activists who want farm practices dramatically changed. We could do the former but our food would very likely come mostly from countries with very cheap labor and food safety regulations we probably wouldn’t like. On the latter, we continue to make significant progress.

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Throw the rascals out

Throw the rascals out

By Mike Barnett

Throw the rascals out.

The words weren’t spoken, but the intent was obvious in the speech delivered by American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman at the opening session of the AFBF annual meeting in San Antonio.

Stallman said Congress is falling down in addressing our nation’s and agriculture’s needs including failure to pass a much-delayed and much-needed farm bill and agricultural labor reform.

“I don’t know what you do when an employee doesn’t get the job done…but I can make a pretty good guess,” Stallman said.

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Heritage Foundation not welcome in farm bill discussion?

Heritage Foundation not welcome in farm bill discussion?

By Gene Hall

Has the ultra-conservative think tank Heritage Foundation and its lobby arm Heritage Action been banned from the Republican Study Committee’s farm bill meetings? Yes, according to reporting in the National Journal by Tim Alberta and in Thomas Driscoll’s excellent Ag-to-Go policy newsletter.

In previous farm bill debate, all the Heritage did was misrepresent itself, mislead many Republican House members and embarrass House Speaker John Boehner.

According to Ag-to-Go, Heritage recommended—to cheerleading from many conservatives in and out of Congress—that the farm part of the farm bill be split off from the food stamp part for a separate vote. Many Republicans agreed, and Heritage hinted it was on board.

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Two cents is an investment in food security

Two cents is an investment in food security

By Mike Barnett

Two cents.  That’s what Americans invest per meal for a viable crop insurance program, the risk management tool used by farmers to protect themselves from the whims of Mother Nature.

That cost per meal—according to a news release by Crop Insurance in America—is derived from the Congressional Budget Office’s projected crop insurance program outlays, the Census Bureau’s projections of U.S. population, the Department of Commerce’s data on consumption spending on food, and the assumption that people eat three meals per day.

Some would call this two cents per meal a subsidy. I couldn’t argue against that, although I prefer to call it an investment.

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Time for a “time out”—for Congress and the country

Time for a “time out”—for Congress and the country

By Gene Hall

For only the third time since Mike and I began this blog, I feel compelled to let you know the opinion you are about to read is mine and mine alone.

I’ve been working for Texas’ farm and ranch families for 35 years. I’ve watched the development of six farm bills. Some bitter fights ensued, but they were always considered “bipartisan.” Both liberal and conservative members of Congress could point to achievements in our national farm policy. Farmers were protected from awesome risks. The hungry were fed with food stamps in the bill. All consumers benefited from affordable food.

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