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President's Ponderings: Ag Subsidies and the Farm Bill

By Edward Luttrell - President's Ponderings Blog (1/19/11)

  JANUARY 23, 2011 --

I read an op-ed piece this week that showed off the lack of understanding that many people have about the Farm Bill. Are you aware that 67% of the money spent through the 2008 Farm Bill is spent for non-farm purposes? 

It also appears that it is a common belief that a great deal of money is spent subsidizing non-farm companies or individuals who own farms. From the numbers that I’ve seen, only about 5% of farms are not owned and operated by farmers. In addition a little less than 15% of the money spent through the Farm Bill is used for farm commodity support. 

Agriculture is important to our Nation! It provides jobs both directly and indirectly. While some work in the fields and barns, many people work for companies that use agricultural products to produce everything from medicines to prepared foods to biodegradable products. 

Agricultural production requires tremendous investment in land, equipment, seed, and more and is then subject to weather fluctuations and volatile markets. Every farmer plants his crops and nurtures his livestock not knowing if his efforts will result in a product that he can sell nor what the price for that commodity will be.

In my Address to the Delegates last November I said the following.

“Due to the financial deficits of the federal government the Grange focus in the 2012 Farm Bill will be in the following areas. We must ensure that credit is available to farmers regardless of size. Rural development issues must continue to be a priority in order to provide necessary infrastructure to get our product from field to table. Research and funding of the Extension program must be continued if we wish to ensure innovative practices and new tools beneficial to agriculture and society are available. The creation, improvement, and implementation of both primary and secondary energy sources through agriculture must remain a priority to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. Crop insurance and disaster relief must be adequately funded in order to serve as the primary way of helping farmers deal with unforeseen weather and market fluctuations.”

The Grange does not insist on commodity subsidizes, but we must ensure that farms have the opportunity to remain profitable to the families living on them. If we abandon agriculture and reduce the less than 18% on non-subsidy agriculture support, our county’s citizens will pay a high price. The world’s safest, most abundant food source is the result of our agricultural base. We have fed ourselves and much of the world and there is no reason that should not continue.

If we truly support agriculture we cannot allow the media to show a few bad examples, or only share a bit of the information and then imply that their view is the total picture of agriculture. It is time for all who support their local farmers to take action and share the real picture of American agriculture.


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