Story by Amanda Azzoli, contributing author for the PeoplePlanetProfitBlog.com
As many of you may or may not know, every 5 years a variety of legislation, commonly referred to as the Farm Bill, expires and requires revision. Despite its misleading nickname, the Farm Bill is not just for farmers. This is a common, incorrect, assumption; one I intend to debunk throughout this article.
So, what is the 2012 Farm Bill?
The 2012 Farm Bill, formally named the “Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012,” covers 12 major areas that apply to our environment and livelihood. Each area covered in the bill has a specific goal, along with detailed programs to help achieve that goal. Below is a list of each area covered in the bill, along with its goal.
- Commodities Programs
- Programs that strive to end direct payments, strengthen crop insurance, and encourage innovative risk management approaches for farmers
- Conservation Programs
- Programs that ensure a safe and abundant food supply, clean water, and a thriving wild life
- Trade Programs
- Programs that focus on opening up new markets and reducing trade barriers
- Nutrition Programs
- Programs that focus on responsible spending to ensure that those in need receive help
- Programs that work with the 2008 Farm Bill to assist beginning farmers and family farms
- Rural Development
- Programs that help to rebuild communities and invest in the future to help rural communities thrive
- Programs that continue critical research initiatives and create a new nonprofit foundation to support cutting-edge research
- Programs that work to protect and improve our nations forests, which provide us with clean drinking water, critical wildlife habitat, and recreational outlets for our families
- Energy Programs
- Programs encouraged to help create jobs, reduce our nations dependency on foreign oil, and explore new opportunities in bio-based manufacturing, advanced biofuels, and renewable energy
- Specialty Crop and Horticulture
- Programs that support and recognize the diversity of American agriculture and the critical impact its sale has on the economy and as a job creator
- Crop Insurance
- Programs that strengthen and improve coverage for all commodities and underserved crops
- Programs that include assisting socially disadvantaged farmers, assisting livestock producers, increasing workforce development
Across these 12 areas, there are over 100 programs. Evidently, these programs apply to all of our citizens, not just farmers. In fact, it is estimated that only 20% of the above programs pertain to farmers.
It is imperative that this assumption is debunked so citizens can become aware of the programs that directly affect them within this bill.
Opportunities and Risks
Another imperative reason for why we need to stay informed about the Farm Bill is because it has the power to create a great deal of opportunity and risk in our country.
In terms of opportunity, the Farm Bill has the power to “revitalize our economy by expanding opportunities to connect farmers and local consumers, removing barriers for beginning farmers, improving the productivity of our workforce by ensuring that all individuals have access to an affordable and healthy diet, and protecting the future quality of our natural resources” (fsepmichigan.org).
However, because of the deficits we face, as well as the current sequestration, certain programs that could be enhanced may be at risk for elimination, due to lack of funding. The termination of certain programs could have a serious effect on our nation. For example, cutting programs concerned with conservation, nutrition, or food aid could affect low-income consumers, our wildlife, as well as the abundance of food supply and clean water. Additionally, cutting programs concerned with energy could affect our environment, and thus, our future.
Legislation that holds this much power over our lives requires and deserves our undivided attention…
As you can see, the Farm Bill is a fully loaded, complex, conglomerate of programs that affect our economy, environment, and overall quality of life, not just the lives of farmers and their farms. Because many people still assume the latter, it is important that we make an effort to inform those who hold this assumption. We owe it to ourselves, to our environment, and to our future to inform others and to stay aware and informed about the Farm Bill and its programs.