From the Ground Up - Agriculture’s Safety Net

The last farm bill was written in 2007 and was set expire at the end of 2012, but congress extended it for 2013. We talked to an economist who says the bill really shouldn’t be called a farm bill because it’s a bill for consumers.

“Well the fact of the matter is, is most of the help the government provides agriculture is only when they have hit thresholds that have determined needs. There is very little money that goes out in terms of what most people would refer to as a direct subsidy for producers.”

Joe Outlaw is an economist for Texas A&M Agrilife Extension.

“The government safety net that we provide that goes to producers is one of the things that unfortunately, unfortunately, it’s called a farm bill. It’s really not a farm bill. We have a consumption bill, that really what we are doing is providing support to producers to keep them in business during bad times, the best we can. Not everybody stays in business, but to keep most of the people in business, to allow them to try again which is assuring low food prices in our stores.”

And food prices in the U.S. are lower than anywhere else in the world.

“Other countries have tried it differently and they have different prices in their stores. We spend, we’ve gone through this before, but we spend about 11% of our incomes on food in this country which is the lowest by a long shot of any industrial nation. No one even comes close.”

There are those who argue that since the government doesn’t provide assistance to other types of businesses, agriculture should not be an exception.

“I’ve said this many, many times, but the fact of the matter is weather, and the importance of food make agriculture a completely different business than other types, than other occupations, and if you don’t see that then you need to pay attention to history of those countries who have neglected their agriculture.”

I’m Kailey Carey tracing the journey our food makes from the farm to our tables, From The Ground Up.