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Food bill vs. farm bill

By Doug Rich

I don't like change. Ask my co-workers here at High Plains Journal who have dragged me kicking and screaming into the age of social media.

However, there is something I would like to change and that is how we refer to the agricultural legislation that Congress is attempting to pass. I think we should call this legislation the food bill and not the farm bill.

Most of the money in the food bill does not go to farmers, and the perception of this legislation by the general public is skewed when we call it the farm bill.

The food bill proposed by the Senate this summer is very similar in its distribution of funds to the 2008 food bill. The proposed Senate bill would spend over a 10-year period 78 percent of its funding on food stamps and nutrition, 9.7 percent on crop insurance (worth every penny), 5.7 percent on conservation programs, 4.2 percent on commodity programs, and the rest on miscellaneous spending. The 2008 food bill spent 66 percent on food stamps and nutrition programs, 14 percent on crop subsidies, 9 percent on conservation programs, and 8 percent on crop insurance.

Many of you already knew that most of the money in the farm bill, I mean food bill, does not go to farmers or ranchers but to programs that benefit, for the most part, people in urban areas. Last year 45 million people in this country received food stamps. But when we call this legislation the farm bill, it gives the perception that farmers receive most of the money.

Perception is very important when you consider that in the last 50 years the percentage of the total population actually living on a farm decreased by 15 percent and most Americans are at least three generations removed from agriculture. All they know about agriculture is what they read in the newspaper, see on television, or hear on the radio.

When we call the food bill the farm bill, they are not associating it with nutrition programs in New York City.

The recently expired 2008 bill was called the "Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008." There is nothing about farmers in that title.

We have been using the term farm bill to describe this legislation for so long that it might be confusing to begin calling it the food bill. But it would be more accurate and give consumers a better picture of what this legislation represents if we call it the food bill.

I would like to know what you think. Do you agree with me that we should start using the term food bill instead of farm bill?

Change can happen. Even though I had my misgivings about social media, it can be a very useful tool. Let me know what you think about this by going to our website and leaving a comment with this column, leave a Tweet at @HighPlainsJrnl #FoodBill, or go to our Facebook page.

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by email at richhpj@aol.com.

Date: 10/8/2012

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