From the Ground Up - Do We Need A Farm Bill

There is an argument going on in Washington on whether or not a new farm bill will be passed or whether Congress may just extend the old one for another specified period of time.

The Farm Bill is much more than a multi-year piece of legislation that acts as a safety net for agricultural producers. Joe Outlaw is a Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Economist.

“In terms of the Farm Bill, that’s probably my number one question I get asked around, is this just for producers? And my answer is eighty per cent of this money is in food benefits. Twenty per cent goes for conservation, forestry, producers, everything else that is ag related.”

Outlaw spends a lot of time in Washington testifying before Congress.

“When you think about how this affects producers and how this affects consumers and how this affects those in our community that are in need, there’s something in it for everybody. Our producers have to have something that we call a safety net and all that is, if conditions get worse, and they’re going to be faced with business exit decisions, the government steps in to try and help them stay in business.”

There’s an old adage that says when there’s plenty of food there are many problems. When there’s no food, there’s only one problem.

“We don’t have shortages at the grocery store, and the reason why is because we’ve had a safety net for sixty or seventy years, helping our producers when things go bad. And that’s what makes agriculture completely different because no other sector of the economy can be so devastated by drought, floods, which could send food prices, it could change them dramatically and cause shortages, and we don’t have runs on food in this country like you see in other countries.”

Outlaw says the numbers don’t lie.

“Point one five per cent of our total U.S. budget is spent on this. That’s a pretty small amount of money to help keep the stores full of food.”

The debate in Congress continues on a new Farm Bill.