With 2018 upon us, there are many public policy priorities Americans want to see accomplished in the new year. The development and passage of a 2018 farm bill is at the top of the list for agriculture. As the major piece of agricultural legislation, the farm bill is vital to everyone involved in the industry. It provides a safety net for agricultural businesses, encourages innovation in production practices and promotes prosperity in rural communities.
But America’s farmers and ranchers are not the only ones that benefit from the farm bill. Covering everything from commodities and trade to energy and extension, agriculture’s biggest legislation benefits all consumers in three major ways.
1. The farm bill keeps our food supply secure. Consumers care about where and how their food is made. Thanks to U.S. agriculture, Americans can choose from a variety of safe and nutritious food products, based on their preferences and needs. The farm bill helps guarantee continued access to the array of affordable food we all are accustomed to and enjoy. Through provisions that promote trade, market competition and quality assurance, the farm bill not only ensures an abundant food supply, but one that is safe and affordable too.
2. The farm bill provides nutrition assistance for those who need it. All Americans should enjoy access to affordable, healthy food, but that access can be strained for families living from paycheck to paycheck. The farm bill helps bridge that gap with nutrition assistance programs that help provide assistance for low-income families and healthy foods to low-income children and seniors.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a way for Americans to stretch their food budget and buy ingredients for healthy and hearty meals. No one knows better than the American farmer and rancher that a good day starts with a good meal, and with the farm bill’s nutrition programs, agriculture helps ensure that those in need have access to healthy meals throughout the day.
3.The farm bill helps us conserve our natural resources and improve the environment. Conservation is a shared priority for consumers and farmers and ranchers alike. We all want to leave our land better than we found it for future generations. That’s why agriculture uses cutting-edge innovation and technology to reduce our environmental impact and protect our natural resources. Protecting our nation’s farms and ranches goes hand-in-hand with protecting greenspace across the land.
The farm bill also includes conservation programs that provide support for protecting wetlands, enhancing wildlife and reducing soil erosion. Approximately $5 billion is allotted each year to support USDA conservation efforts built upon a long-standing partnership with America’s farmers and ranchers.
The 2018 farm bill will shape our nation’s food supply for the next five years. With its draft expected by spring, now is the time to learn more.
Shiloh Perry is a communications assistant at the American Farm Bureau Federation.