Roughly every five years, Congress renews the legislation known as the “Farm Bill.” A misconception is that this bill only affects farmers. In fact, it impacts the lives of all Americans.

From the population of some 327 million people, just 2.1 million work as farmers. Millions of consumers rely on a relatively small number of farmers in America to produce the food they eat. Americans also depend on a small number of people to decide on land management. Overall, those two things have a direct effect on the health and wellbeing of people in the United States.

Understanding Agriculture

Most people give little thought to where their food comes from, what the production process is, and who grows the crops. However, by understanding the spending of American’s tax dollars, most people would feel upset. The purpose of this bill is to ensure that tax dollars go to growing the right type of foods while lending support to the agricultural system.

Of the 2.1 million farmers in the U.S., only 4 percent are responsible for 55 percent of the agricultural output. The federal programs currently in place reward high-production farmers, those grossing $1 million or more every year. That means a lot of smaller farmers need public assistance.

Farming Crisis

The oversupply and low-price crisis that farmers face is what the Farm Bill incentivizes. With this bill, the government can ensure that farmers do not try to get one up on the system, meaning they receive aid even if they fail. Instead, Congress wants to know that farmers are genuinely trying to produce quality crops.

Without public assistance, literally hundreds of thousands of farms would not survive, which impacts the healthy diets that the American people need. The Farm Bill rewards specific farmers, those that produce massive volume. While that is not a bad thing, the incentives come at a cost. More productive farms use fertilizers, pesticides, and other toxic substances, which pollute the water, reduce the quality of the air, and erode the soil.

Experts agree that public funds should go toward growing healthy food that people can afford to buy while supporting sustainable rural communities and maintaining long-term productivity of American land.

Challenging Congress

The drafting of the 2018 Farm Bill challenges members of Congress to meet the broad and diverse needs of all farmers, big and small. In addition to farmers and consumers, the Farm Bill affects jobs, infrastructure, conservation, forestry, energy, agricultural research, and trade.

By making changes to the current Farm Bill, Congress has the opportunity to help all 2.1 million farmers grow healthy foods, to credit farmers just starting out, and to protect against losses caused by natural disasters. The bill would also provide relief to some degree to farmers forced to cut prices and those with poor yields.

What it boils down to is that the 2018 Farm Bill needs modification. This year, officials will push to impose work requirements on physically fit farmers without dependents. They also want to address limiting what people can use SNAP benefits to buy, such as junk food, soda, and other unhealthy items. As the debate over the 2018 Farm Bill continues, officials hope that it will help educate not just farmers, but all Americans.