The Deseret Morning News, in its Dec. 15 editorial "Eliminate farm subsidies," missed some important facts. Let's really take a look at what the farm bill does.
The farm bill, passed by a 79-14 bipartisan vote, authorizes $286 billion over five years. More than 60 percent of the farm bill is spent on food and nutrition programs targeted toward Americans in need, including food stamps, school breakfast and lunch programs and Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The remaining funds are invested in conservation, commodities and exports. At the end of the day, the 2007 farm bill will spend only .25 percent of our federal budget on farmers, ranchers and the rural communities they support.
It is important to recognize the farm bill is an investment in protecting America's most basic need food and clothing. As a society, we do not want to depend on food producers in foreign lands to feed our nation.
Americans enjoy the safest, highest quality food at the lowest cost in the world. We pay just 10 percent of our disposable income on food. It's true, just 15 percent of our farmers and ranchers produce more than 65 percent of our food. Efficiency and productivity has been incorporated into American agriculture and benefits all consumers. The American agriculture miracle is the envy of the world. Today, a single farmer produces enough food for 143 people in the United States and abroad.
The farm bill investment is paying dividends. Farm exports in 2007 are forecast at $91 billion and expected to exceed $400 billion over the next five years. According to the Agriculture Department, in 2007 farm exports are responsible for nearly 1.4 million American jobs.
Some in the media attempt to portray the recipients of farm subsides as large corporations. A quick check of the facts shows that non-family farms comprise less than 2 percent of America's farm population. Ninety-eight percent of America's farms and ranches are owned by individuals, family partnerships or family corporations.
The News points out that federal farm subsidies are going to millionaires. Some high profile individuals have received USDA assistance, but most often it is for incorporating soil and water conservation practices or for habitat restoration, not crop subsidies. The farm bill encourages and invests in practices that protect America's natural resources.
As a society, we create laws to encourage or discourage behavior. It makes no sense to encourage an affordable, wholesome and steady supply food or to protect our natural resources, then selectively decide who gets the money. Funds in the farm bill provide for important research, conservation and food security programs. A presidential veto would ultimately hurt Utah's soil, water, air, wildlife habitat and cutting-edge agricultural research.
The farm bill provides stability in the marketplace for farmers and ranchers ensuring the abundance we Americans often take for granted. Consumers should recognize that only 19 cents of their retail food dollar are returned to the producers. Out of that, they must pay for fuel, labor, machinery and fertilizer.America's farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world. The farm bill provides an economic safety net, invests in rural America and promotes the safest and most affordable food in the world. It's a good investment in America.
Leland J. Hogan is the president of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation.