If you eat and drink -- and you probably do -- the agriculture industry affects you. That's why the 2012 Farm Bill is important to everyone. The half-trillion-dollar Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs act of 2012 is in the US Senate awaiting debate, amendments and eventually, a vote.
Among the many provisions of the bill, it would cut $4.5 billion from the $80 billion national food stamp program. It also would save $23 billion in part by ending direct payments to farmers and modifying crop insurance programs.
The five-year legislation would replace the current farm bill, which expires this fall.
The White House supports the bill, although the administration wants further cuts to crop insurance and commodity program spending.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee wrote in an op-ed "it's a bill you can be proud of," but failed to give specifics, instead relying of prosaic statements.
Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, told a newspaper the 2012 farm bill should include $1.3 billion for water retention projects over the next 10 years.
While Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK, labeled the Senate bill “a welfare bill.”
Doing his best stand-up bit, Arizona Sen. John McCain mocked the farm bill on Senate floor.
"And I know that mothers all over America that have advocated for their children to eat their peas will be pleased to know that there's a study that's going to cost them $25 million to study the health benefits of peas, lentils, and garbanzo beans."The New York Times editorial board opposes the food stamps cuts opining in a Friday June 15 editorial:
"That amount is a small fraction of the nation’s spending on food stamps, currently nearly $80 billion a year, but would, nevertheless, be devastating for nearly half-a-million households that would have their benefits sliced by an average of $90 per month, according to the Congressional Budget Office."Meanwhile on the other side of the continent, The LA Times editorial board asks: Does the farm bill care more about big business than people?
"Beyond cutting funds to the food stamp program, there's also an argument for placing more restrictions on what SNAP money can pay for. 'Just as health and anti-obesity advocates are working to bring agricultural policy in line with health policy by getting the farm bill to promote production of healthier foods, they also are looking at ways to encourage SNAP recipients to make healthier food choices,' writes Marion Neslte of Food Politics. Of course, the makers of inexpensive junk food would hate to see that happen and have the power to be much more persuasive than, say, small farmers."The Washington Post gives us the Farm Bill in one graph:
To date, legislators have filed more than 250 amendments associated with the bill.
Among them is Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) amendment (SA 2256) that requires genetically engineered foods to be labeled.
So the question is, will the bill pass?
Capitol Hill insiders handicapped a probable 2012 Farm Bill this way: Either the Senate passes its version by the the Fourth of July holiday to push the House to act by late summer or no farm law will pass until after the November general election.
Here in Placer County, the agriculture industry is a $65 million business - a mere fraction of California agriculture's overall $35 billion a year receipts. Regardless, Placer County farmers -- like food and commodity producers everywhere -- take their work seriously because everyone must eat and drink.
Furthermore, in an effort to support and promote local ag, the Placer County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to waive county event permit fees for anything related to agriculture.
Here are the top five crops in 2010, the last time the information was made available by the Placer County Farm Bureau.
1. Rice $ 27,354,363
2. Cattle and Calves $ 8,015,225
3. Nursery Stock $ 5,048,712
4. Timber $ 4,659,958
5. Walnuts $ 2,675,195