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.

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.

Gene Hall

Public Relations Director
Texas Farm Bureau
I believe that the only hope for a food secure world is capitalism and reasonable profits for America’s farm and ranch families–that the first element of sustainability is economic survival.
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6 Responses to “What is a farm bill and why should I care?”

  1. Carolyn Deason says:

    Sir,

    I differ from the statement in this article that our food is safe. No one is safe so long as GMO’s are in our foods.

    Thank you.

    Carolyn Deason
    San Antonio, TX 78266

    • Gene Hall says:

      Thanks for posting Carolyn – Been here before on this argument. You are entitled to your opinion and I posted it forthwith. However, the crushing weight of scientific evidence – growing ever more heavy – differs with you. The first GMO crops were planted in 1994 and the human health casualties stand at exactly zero. Not one. But, use of pesticides has dramatically decreased because of this technology. Every year that passes without a genetic apocalypse is just more evidence of what should be very clear. Our food is indeed safe. Thanks for posting.

    • Robert Domitz says:

      Farmers have been tinkering with plant genetics since the beginning of agriculture. In the 1800s, Gregor Mendel founded the science of genetics through his experiments on inheritance of traits in plants. The only things that have changed over time are the techniques for tinkering.

      • Gene Hall says:

        Right you are Robert. Virtually none of the food we consume today is “natural” in the sense that it has not been genetically altered in some way by food science.

  2. Thanks for the good information that you supply to all of us… The Farm Bill is good for all in the USA….. BTW it is getting bone dry up here in north Hill County..

    • Gene Hall says:

      Thanks Joe. The whole state is getting dry! My son is moving to Waxahachie as a TFB Field Staffer. Close to you?

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