BRAZOS COUNTY, Tex. (KBTX) - Last week the Farm Bill was passed by both Houses of Congress. It contains a safety net for farmers, support for forestry, conservation programs, and supports land grant universities like Texas A&M. About eighty percent of the money in the bill funds the SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This has led many to refer to the bill as a Food Bill rather than a Farm Bill. Joe Outlaw is co-director of the Agriculture and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M.
“The bill, in my mind, is something that undergirds agriculture. It also helps people who don’t have enough food. But it undergirds agriculture, at the same time it’s undergirding the whole Ag economy. We have this discussion a lot about what does the farm bill do for producers? That when things go bad it steps in and makes up part of the difference, part of the loss.”
Outlaw says that if the Farm Bill hadn’t passed many farmers would have had problems getting production loans for 2019.
“If you go in with a budget crop prices are low enough that they’re not cash flowing so what they’re doing is borrowing against past successes. They’re borrowing against their equity and we have had three years now of eating into people’s equity. At some point the lenders are not going to go with them anymore.”
Outlaw points out that Ag and Ag related industries are a big part of the U.S. economy.
“Two million farmers out of three hundred and something million people is not that big of a deal, but fifteen percent of our employment because of all of the different processing and all the transportation, it gets to be a big part of the economy. So this bill is vital in terms of providing a safety net to the whole, what we call food and fiber complex.”
Outlaw says that while many people’s eyes will start to glaze over when you talk about safety nets for farmers, most consumers understand the importance of having a plentiful and affordable food supply.
“This bill through all the mechanisms that it has and all the different elements of it, assures that we have a safe, abundant and available to them food supply so that when we go to the grocery store, they’re not going to be turned away with nothing.”