Press-Republican

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January 9, 2013

In My Opinion: The 'Farm Bill:' Call it what it is

The so-called “Farm Bill” continues to be one of the more controversial aspects of our nation’s budget.

Possibly, this controversy exists because it is not a Farm Bill. It is a food, conservation and energy bill. Approximately 75 to 80 percent of the $284 billion of the five-year Farm Bill goes to food stamps and other nutritional assistance programs, not farm subsidies, as often presented by the media and subsequently misperceived by the public.

So, when and why did all this controversy begin?

Back in the presidential election of 1928, candidate Herbert Hoover promised “a chicken in every pot for Sunday dinner.” As a side note, the phrase, “a chicken in every pot” was actually coined by King Henry IV of France (1553-1610).

The need for the U.S. government to ensure a consistent supply of safe food, at affordable prices, is what resulted in the creation of the first Farm Bill in 1933.

In modern times, the “Farm Bill” is also known as the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008.

The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 represents a mere 2 percent of the national budget and is largely dedicated (again 70 to 80 percent) to domestic nutrition assistance programs. These programs include but are not limited to The Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Program, consumer nutrition programs, food stamps, school lunches and breakfast programs.

The remaining percentage is divided among various agriculture-related programs, primarily crop insurance, shared-risk programs, farm-commodity price supports and conservation.

Combined, these efforts allow the U.S. consumer access to an abundance of safe, high-quality and inexpensive food not found in other countries.

Perhaps, what makes this bill so controversial is that all Americans benefit from its existence. In most developed nations, consumers spend more than 30 percent of their income on food. In the United States, consumers spend less than 10 percent of their income on food.

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