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.
What is a farm bill? It’s a safety net, designed to keep farm families on the land. It’s those families who stand between us and a food supply that is mostly imported. I hear from people all the time who complain about elements of farm legislation that haven’t existed for decades. In fact, in this bill, most of the complicated payment system has been eliminated. It’s still complicated enough, but most of what’s left in terms of support for farmers is crop insurance.
Crop insurance is a risky business because agriculture itself is a gamble. The government subsidizes crop insurance because farmers can’t afford the premium otherwise. However, in Texas, during the drought of 2011, we’d have lost most of our farmers. In 2012, it would have been the Midwest’s turn as epic drought visited those states.
Our food is safe, abundant and affordable because of the farm bill. We need for the U.S. Senate to pass it and send it to President Obama for the promised signature. It’s not just for farmers. It’s for all of us.