Guest Commentary: Support a farm bill that benefits all of us

Guest Commentary: Support a farm bill that benefits all of us


The United States government began taking steps to ensure Americans had enough safe food on their tables during the Dust Bowl Era by bringing to life the first farm bill.

In 1933, the farm bill was created under the FDR administration to help farmers struggling during the Great Depression. The U.S. Congress originally intended the farm bill to ensure that the United States would have a stable and safe food supply.

The farm bill, in its current form, is up for revision in 2018. It's an omnibus bill, meaning it affects a broad spectrum of areas including trade, the environment, food safety, consumers, nutrition, food assistance recipients, rural communities and agribusiness. This farm bill doesn't just affect farmers, but each of us. Every program and policy in the bill has a distinct title, but out of habit and perhaps ease, it continues to be referred to as the farm bill.

Additionally, urban legislators support the bill because the programs and policies, not directly related to farming, affect their constituents.

Approximately 82 percent of the farm bill's actual spending is for programs not directly related to farming and ranching such as nutrition, the food stamp program — programs that put food on the table for many of America's children, senior citizens and poor. Total agricultural spending is less than 1 percent of the total U.S. budget.

You might be thinking ... "What do I have in common with a farmer and why is this bill important to me?" I am a producer of food, but we are all consumers. As consumers we have come to expect access to a safe, reliable, and relatively inexpensive food source! History shows a hungry nation — or a nation dependent on others for food — is a vulnerable and unstable nation. Our food source is vital to national security!

What else do you have in common with a farmer? As citizens of this community we know it is vitally important to provide a strong safety net for many of our friends, family and neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table for themselves and their families.

According to Eastern Illinois Foodbank, about one in every seven people in the region turns to the food bank and its generous contributors for at least a portion of their daily diet. Champaign County alone has a total population of approximately 208,000 people and a poverty rate of 22.6 percent.

There's no question, nutrition programs need to be supported by this bill.

How do farmers directly benefit from the farm bill? The policies set forth in the Farm Bill provide a safety net to farmers when times are bad. Policies regarding crop insurance, conservation, and "subsidies" help manage risk. Farming is a risky business because several uncertainties about weather, crop yields, prices, and government policies can cause wide swings in farm income.

For example, U.S. net farm income has dropped 46 percent the last three years, and is projected to drop another 8.6 percent in 2017, the largest four-year drop in 40 years.

In the United States we have the safest, most reliable and most abundant food source in the world. Our farm bill policy not only supports robust agricultural production and the basic nutritional needs for all Americans, but also provides cost-share conservation programs, agricultural research, and foreign market development programs.

As a farmer, I'm proud to help feed the many people who depend on me and my farm for food. Each and every farm in Champaign County is counted on to feed 155 people both here in the United States and around the world (and we do it inexpensively). The average American food bill takes far less of their disposable income — just 9.8 percent — than anywhere else, something many of us take for granted.

Really, it all starts with good federal policy, one that helps support production by allowing farmers to manage their considerable risk and puts food on the table for those most in need. I hope you'll join me in reaching out to our congressmen and senators to support a balanced, comprehensive farm bill that benefits each of us.

Chris Murray is the President of the Champaign County Farm Bureau. Murray is a fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer and also sells Pioneer Seed. He is a graduate of Fisher High School, Parkland College and Illinois State University.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on March 12, 2017 at 1:03 pm

and that includes the Pork Producers.

Well... ever wonder why farmers' ball cap brims are always rounded?  It is from always looking into the mailbox for the subsidies checks.

Cut the fat out of the bill, and keep the provisions to feed the poor.  At least, a 747 stops whining when it lands in Florida.