As discussions renew in Washington, D.C., about the direction and passage of a new farm bill, it’s a good time to be mindful of why we have farm bill conversations at all. That’s particularly true in light of the sometimes immense scrutiny the farm bill and farmers receive from being affiliated with farm programs. The scrutiny isn’t limited to Washington, D.C., activists and can be closer to home than many of us on the farm or ranch would like to think.
I often hear that Americans are becoming more interested in knowing about how their food is raised and about where it comes from. Unfortunately, much of what they hear is negative and that includes the farm bill and many of its programs, like crop insurance. While there are many different opinions and attitudes on the farm bill and farm programs, the one thing we should never lose sight of is that farm programs are truly about ensuring our food security which is squarely rooted in protecting our national security.
Without question one, if not the most important role of the U.S. government is to provide for the safety and security of its citizens. When hearing the words “national security,” most people think of soldiers, tanks, missiles and all the work of the U.S. military is charged with to protect and defend our citizens from outside threats that would seek to do us harm. Food security, however, is every bit as vital to our country’s national security.
The ability to produce an adequate supply of food and allow citizen’s access to food is clearly linked to a country’s prosperity and stability. That’s not an opinion, but a fact proven by history and the sole reason the U.S. is so heavily involved in providing foreign food aid. A U.S. Department of State blog post in 2011 said it best, “investments made to ward off food insecurity and prevent its recurrence can prevent vicious cycles of rising extremism, armed conflict and state failure that can require far larger [U.S.] commitments of resources down the road.”
Yes, farm and ranch families are the direct recipients of many of the benefits of a farm bill. Farm programs provide a safety net to help protect from the risks of weather disasters and other worldly conditions beyond our control. But, the farm bill and farm programs also exist to ensure there is a viable food supply for all the people of our nation. It’s a major part of our overall national security that provides stability not just here at home, but abroad to try and keep peace in an increasingly dangerous world.
Critics will be critics. Not everyone can or will appreciate the fact the average farmer today feeds 154 people annually (roughly 40 people more than the average in 1980), nor the fact we do so using less land, water, fertilizer and chemical than ever before. But when it comes to the farm bill and farm programs, it should be clear the purpose and intent is ultimately to help all Americans. That’s a point we shouldn’t be afraid to share with everyone – family, friends and neighbors included.
-Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau President