America’s Meal Ticket

Do you care about children’s’ nutrition? How about hunger? The environment? Reducing dependence on petroleum? Or, do you plan to visit a grocery store in the next few years? If so, then this is for you. Maybe you just want to know how lawmakers are planning to spend $419 billion of your money. Whatever the case, the current debate in Washington over the next farm bill deserves your attention. Here are some things to consider:

How you slice farm bill funding
The majority of farm bill payments are used for nutrition programs such as school lunches and food stamps. In fact, for every $7.50 the next farm bill is expected to spend on feeding people, just $1 will go to farmers. The chart at left shows the proposed spending breakdown for the 2008-2013 Farm Bill.
Source: Congressional Budget Office

Does the government pay farmers not to farm?
Such provisions had existed in past farm bills but have long since been removed. Today, farmers and landowners can receive a financial incentive to conserve land through the Conservation Reserve Program. This program has been applauded by both farm and environmental groups as a way to protect highly erodible land while providing wildlife habitat and green space.

What farmers are saying
Each year Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s (OFBF) 60,000 farmer members have the chance to shape the organization’s position on issues through a grassroots policy development process. Here are a few highlights of what the organization is supporting in the next farm bill:

  • Preserving the commodity support program that has provided American agriculture with a strong safety net.
  • Increasing funding for the development of biobased products and renewable fuels such as cellulosic ethanol.
  • Expanding nutrition programs that provide fruits and vegetables to children.
  • Increasing funding to develop broadband Internet access in rural areas.
  • Expanding conservation programs, which benefit air, water and wildlife.
  • Providing strict oversight of the farm program to prevent fraud, waste and abuse.

A Farmer’s Share
Given the problems stemming from America’s dependence on foreign fuel, many argue that investing in a domestic food supply is a wise policy. And while farmers continue to face uncertain weather and rising input costs, they still receive a fraction of what consumers pay at the grocery store.

Let’s say you make $40,000 a year in disposable income and like the average American you spend about 10 percent of that on food. Of that $4,000 you spend each year at the grocery store and restaurants, a farmer would only receive about $800. After buying fertilizers, seed, feed, fuel and other supplies, the farmer’s profit is about $30.

For every $100 paid in federal taxes in 2006, just 3 cents went to farm bill programs.

Source: Congressional Budget Office, American Farm Bureau Federation