Here are a couple articles I hope will promote some discussion about what kinds of results we want from federal programs. One is a story of how a young farmer got started thanks to support from a government loan program. The other looks at emergency drought payments and helps us ask the question, “Are we getting the results on the ground that we want?” Both are examples of how federal agriculture policy shapes what we do, and looked at together they help us think about what we’d like that policy to look like.
How Did We Get Here?
Until the 1930’s agriculture policy in the U.S. was largely focused on helping farmers and ranchers get started by providing land through various homesteading type acts. But in the 1930s, farmers started failing dramatically. They’d grown too much grain, and low prices made it impossible for them to pay their mortgages, no matter how much they produced.
If we had bumper stickers back then they would have said, “No Farmers, No Food.” So, to ensure a future with both food and farmers, the first Farm Bill was created. The Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1933 included paying farmers not to grow crops, and buying grain from farmers and storing it to ensure adequate food supplies for the future. It also acknowledged the importance of conservation, and included support for things like terraces, shelterbelts, and other conservation techniques to protect and improve soil health. (You can click on the picture below to hear FDR’s Fireside Chat on the effects of drought and the dustbowl.)
The farm bill has changed and grown a lot since then, but the fundamental intent remains the same: support farmers and ranchers in hard times, make sure we have an adequate food supply, and ensure that we have healthy soil, water, air and wildlife habitat.
How we do that, well, that’s always up for debate, and sometimes we get it wrong. That’s why the Farm Bill has to be re-upped every 5 years, allowing us to continue to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Perhaps, by putting together the more than 100,000 heads that visit On Pasture every month, we can figure out some new solutions.
Then, since you’re busy raising food and may not have time to push change through on your own, we’ll be introducing organizations you might join or support as a good way to increase the volume of your voice.
In the meantime, I look forward to our discussion!
Thanks for reading!