Opponents to any government support of agriculture paint the farm bill as an unnecessary handout to farmers. Proponents of the bill point out that only sixteen per cent of the current farm bill was budgeted for agriculture support and that seventy-nine percent of the funding was spent on food programs, and argue that the bill not only keeps food available and affordable to consumers, but has a huge impact on the U.S. economy. Joe Outlaw is co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University.
“That’s one of the biggest misnomers that I deal with is someone says, you’re an ag guy because you work on the farm bill. And the answer to that question is really, everybody should be worried. This isn’t a farm bill. It’s a consumer bill or if you want to say it, it’s just an everybody bill. The reason being is that yes, the farm bill does a number of things to keep producers in business to help them keep producing, to keep food on the shelves.”
Outlaw says the farm bill actually does much more than that.
“The farm bill helps keep these producers in business which then go out and do business with everybody around the community and that money turns over a few times and lenders will stay in business, supply organizations stay in business and that money gets brought into the tax base and helps fund education in local communities.”
Outlaw maintains that agriculture has an expansive economic footprint.
“It is one of the few segments of the economy that really does a beautiful picture of exploding out the impact. We can talk food all you want to, but there’s all these economic impacts that are also there that, it’s my job and others to make sure that people understand what they’re doing when they’re talking about the farm bill. It’s a food bill. It’s a consumer bill. It’s a business bill. It does it all.”