Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Majority of the U.S. Farm Bill Funds Food & Nutrition Programs

Here I am at the Capital in D.C.
Last week I traveled to Washington D.C. with the Ohio Farm Bureau AgriPower program. One of the topics on our agenda was the 2012 Farm Bill. 

The Farm Bill sets the framework for agriculture policy and funding for a five-year period and is passed into law by the U.S. Congress. Currently, the 2008 Farm Bill, also known as the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, outlines spending in the amount of $288 billion. Discussions are underway for the 2012 Farm Bill which should be adopted by mid-2012. The Farm Bill is 2% of the Federal Government’s budget.

You might be surprised that the majority of Farm Bill funds are spent on nutrition programs such as food stamps and school lunches. We have an abundant food supply in the U.S. but people still go hungry. According to a presentation by the American Farm Bureau Federation, many families depend on the U.S. government for food;
  • 1 of 8 American’s use food banks
  • 50% of babies born today benefit from the Women Infant and Children (WIC) program
  • 50% of America’s children will be on food stamps at least once before they are 20 years old
  • 15% of U.S. households don’t have enough money to feed themselves
  • 1 of 7 American’s are on food stamps
  • 54% of students receive free lunch at school and 10% get reduced price lunches
  • 72% of students get free breakfast at school and 10% have reduced price breakfast
The remaining Farm Bill dollars fund agriculture programs which protect American’s food production system. This chart illustrates a breakdown of proposed 2012 Farm Bill funding (which is similar to the 2008 Farm Bill):

The American people, me included, are tired of all the wasteful government spending and that was made clear during the November 2010 elections. As a result, many government programs will likely receive budget cuts. When you hear elected officials, media or your friends talking about the 2012 Farm Bill, it’s important to know it’s really a food and nutrition bill. Agriculture programs receive ½ of 1 percent of the total federal budget.


  1. Nice job Brenda. I agree totally. I am hopeful that our newly elected congressmen and women can somehow make the changes we need and see which programs really show value and which can sustain cuts... as we all know, the cuts are necessary. Keep up the good work. Kim Rassi, Vintage Alpacas and Ohio Farm Bureau Agripower group

  2. This is great information, Brenda.
    I don't believe you're saying FNS programs are representative of wasteful government spending. Are you?
    Thanks for posting this.

  3. Thanks for representing your state, as well as, other dairy producers in the country. We need every voice!!

    PS - I'm a producer in VA

  4. Thanks to everyone for the comments! Ed, I believe food programs are important for families who need temporary assistance. Nobody in this country should go hungry. My hope is for all American’s to work towards supporting themselves and their families. Government programs are available for people who have hit a bump in the road and need temporary assistance while they get back on their feet. These programs shouldn’t become a long-term way of life.

  5. Nicely put... However agricultural reporter Michael Pollan notes 40% of agricultural income is subsidy. He quotes one farmer saying subsidies are like "laundering money for Cargill and ADM."

    I'd also say the subsidies serve agribusiness more than farmers. There's a reason a calorie of high-fructose corn syrup is cheaper than a calorie of carrot.

    Then there's the spectre of corn-fed beef. As Wendell Berry says: Feedlots neatly divide the solution of cow pies-as-fertilizer into two problems (soils stripped of nutrients animals would otherwise leave there, and mountains of stinking manure to dispose of).

    Corn is not cows' natural food; grass is. When we feed beef corn, their naturally basic stomachs turn acid. The feedlot beef is so sick, as a consequence, that they consume the majority of antibiotics produced in the U.S.

    This also means that feedlots breed antibiotic-resistant germs that also tolerate acidic stomachs. Ordinarily the acid human gut would kill bacteria from basic-gut cows, but not any more. Killer e.coli, anyone?

    This situation is possible because of corn subsidies. In fact most of the fast food we consume wouldn't be possible without those. It's also possible because feedlots don't have to treat their waste, even though it's often more than entire cities produce.

    This is very, very bad, no matter how little actual farmers get. But I'm guessing Cargill and ADM aren't concerned.

  6. Thank you for the comment. I’m not an advocate of government subsidies for any industry. I can tell you dairy producers get very little funding from subsidies. We receive a small amount of government support when milk prices are extremely low and/or feed prices are very high. There are many years when dairy producers receive no subsidies at all.

    Regarding livestock feed, our cow’s diet is carefully formulated to manage the health, well-being and productivity of our animals from calf to heifer to milk cow to dry cow. Currently, our feed ingredients include haylage (chopped up hay/grass), corn silage (which is a forage-the entire corn plant from ear to stalk), soybean meal, distillers grain, ground corn and a mineral & vitamin mix.

    Each group of animals receives the exact nutrients they need to thrive. The feed ingredients are tested by a laboratory for nutrient levels of protein, fibers, fat, and minerals. We also receive weekly test results regarding the component levels in our cow’s milk. These components include butterfat, protein, and MUN (milk urea nitrogen). The correct MUN levels ensure cows are optimizing the protein in their diet.

    Our nutritionist evaluates the feed ingredients and milk composition tests to develop a balanced ration that will meet the needs of each group of animals. It’s important that cows receive the correct amount of energy, protein, fat, starch and other nutrients – not too much and not too little. We manage the herd for optimal health and well-being in the lives of our animals.

    Dairy cows are not fed antibiotics. If a cow gets sick on our farm, she goes to the hospital pen where she receives special care and is treated with antibiotics if necessary. Milk from hospital cows is discarded. Just as you may be treated with antibiotics if you get sick, we sometimes treat a cow with antibiotics when she is sick. As dairy farmers, we are responsible and accountable for the use of antibiotics on our animals. These products are expensive and only used as necessary as prescribed by a veterinarian. There is no economic advantage to overusing antibiotics.

    Every single tank load of milk entering a dairy processing plant in the United States is strictly tested for animal drug residues and disposed of if it tests positive. Therefore, no milk you purchase in the store contains antibiotics - not “regular” conventional milk, not rBST free milk and not organic milk.

    Michael Pollen is not an “agricultural reporter”. He’s an author with a degree in English from Columbia University with many opinions about food. The views you’ve expressed are consistent with Pollen’s work and messages from movies like Food Inc. and Fast Food Nation. Messages from these sources are carefully crafted with the goal of promoting an elitist agenda of organic food and a plant-based diet. I encourage you to seek information from a variety of sources.

    I invite you to read my recent blog Food Day-Celebration of Food or Assault on Modern Agriculture @ http://thedairymom.blogspot.com/2011/10/food-day-celebration-of-food-or-assault.html. This blog contains links to many agriculture resources and links to other blogs I’ve written on sustainable farms, factory farms, and movies like Food Inc.


Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment! I’m opening the doors of our farm to share with you and enjoy engaging in discussion. Please be respectful in your comments. I reserve the right to remove posts that include name calling, slander, and vulgar language or contain links to websites that assault animal agriculture.

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