Why the Farm Bill Matters
(Even though you may not live on a farm)
What is the farm bill, really?
The United States farm bill is really more of a farm and food bill that encompasses a majority of the federal policies that affect our nation’s agriculture and nutrition programs. It is a massive bill, passed every five to seven years. To illustrate its magnitude, the 2014 farm bill contained 12 titles and was estimated to cost $489 billion (yes, billion) over a five-year period. Right now, it is in conference committee, which basically means that a group of legislators will decide how to rectify the House and Senate version of the bill. In other words, what they decide will affect the food you eat over the next five to seven years.
But the real question is, who should care about the Farm Bill? Feel free to find yourself on the list below.
Advocates and hungry families
Food stamps are a farm bill program. During our 2015 fiscal year, 19,625 Johnson County residents received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (food stamps) each month. These beneficiaries included children, working adults, parents, individuals with disabilities and seniors. All of the funding that helps these families afford food through SNAP comes from the Farm Bill.
Grocery stores and farmers markets
In 2015, SNAP benefits provided $26,964,912 in food purchasing dollars to low-income families in Johnson County. These are dollars that can be spent at local grocery stores or select Johnson County farmers markets.
In Johnson County, 250 seniors participate in the farm bill’s Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program each year, which provides a total of $7,500 in healthy food purchasing dollars that go directly to local and regional farmers. Some of this funding can be matched through a local grant program operated by Cultivate KC. At the Overland Park Farmers’ Market in 2015, seniors spent a total of $12,829 on local food using these incentives.
Farmers and environmentalists
In Johnson County, there are approximately 571 farms, which account for 99,354 acres of farmland. These farms raise livestock and produce a number of crops including wheat, corn, soy, fruits, vegetables, alfalfa, and etc. Numerous farmers in Johnson County participate in the current farm bill’s conservation programs, such as Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), among others. EQIP helps many local farmers extend their growing season by helping farmers obtain high tunnels, which is why some farmers can grow tomatoes in early spring and leafy greens during winter. CSP supports a number of conservation practices that help prevent soil erosion, build soil health, and implement environmentally-beneficial farming practices.
Farmers market vendors and cities that run them
There are approximately 200 vendors that sell their farm goods at Johnson County farmers markets each week. The farm bill provides millions of dollars of funding each year to support farmers markets and also helps fund incentives such as Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB), a program that allows families who utilize SNAP to double the value of their fruit and vegetable purchases at select farmers markets and grocery stores. The 2014 farm bill included $100 million to support this national program. At the Overland Park Farmers’ Market, a total of $46,238 SNAP/DUFB dollars were spent on fruits and vegetables sold by local farmers and ranchers.
Farmers market shoppers and parents of school children
There are 9 farmers markets in Johnson County, and the Overland Park Farmers’ Market alone is expected to have a 190,000 visitors this year. In 2018, the Farm Bill provided $89 million in funding to support farmers markets and other programs such as farm-to-school initiatives, local food distribution, and local food processing.
This would be everyone, of course. The farm bill funds food safety training for farmers, which helps ensure the food you purchase and eat is safe and healthy.
Organic food shoppers
Organic certification is costly. The farm bill’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP) reimburses farmers up to 75 percent of annual organic certification costs, making the cost of organic certification more affordable and thus supporting consumer access to local, organic produce.
Insurance agents, beginning farmers and ranchers, researchers, and the list goes on! The point is this: the local economy and our families are affected by the farm bill each day. So next time you hear news about the farm bill, tune in! Now you know a few reasons why it is important to you and your family.
Note: Information presented does not constitute an endorsement of vendor/s, products or services and does not constitute or imply K-State Research and Extension’s endorsement, recommendation, or favoring of such item or organization. Any such material presented is for informational purposes only and may change at any time.