The far right and far left tend to agree on more issues than folks realize, but have very different ideas for how to resolve those issues. The recently enacted federal farm bill is one example.
Putting bitter disagreements over the SNAP program aside, when it comes to parts of the bill dealing directly with farming, both sides agree commodity crops are getting far too much federal support. Advocates on the far left would rather see programs that favor small-scale agriculture or some type of means test, some on the far right would rather see no programs at all.
Historically, Congress has chosen commodity support programs to avoid making the farm bill farm welfare on the theory that sound food and fiber policies are in the general public’s interest.
While the nature and scale of farming have changed over the generations, federal farm policy has been slow to follow. Certainly there are shortcomings in how we support getting fresh fruits and vegetables to American tables, but funding micro farmers and small-scale growers is too inefficient to produce the bounty needed to feed the nation. Many say this is just a subsidy for peasant farming.
Our current large scale farming contains a mixed bag production practices with some farmers “mining” the land and water resources while others consciensously employ what agronomists and other scientists define as “best practices” to mitigate harm to land, water and air. Minnesota agriculture isn’t an exception. Both the farm bill’s commodity programs and the large farmers’ scale help them avoid the boom and bust cycles of previous generations.
So what’s the balance to make farming sustainable from an economic, environmental and food security stand point?
This farm bill got us closer and farther from this balance. You can read the overview from Kent Olson, an economist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service and a leading expert on farm finances, for more on some of the bill’s details.
Minnesota’s two U.S. senators and at least two members of the U.S. House of Representatives worked tirelessly on this farm bill. While some might criticize the final outcome, it’s important to remember there are a number of competitive interests in this type of legislation. At the end of the day, one of the main goals is to ensure a stable and affordable food supply, and that’s what this farm bill does.