As the new farm bill nears completion, spending projections have been released showing the bill’s price tag approaches a trillion dollars over 10 years. These figures have turned some heads because nearly 80 percent of the spending in the bill will go to nutrition programs. This is how the bill is supposed to work – helping farmers to grow food and helping hungry people have access to it.
Some have criticized the farm bill for increases in overall spending, but that’s not a fair comparison. Because the United States is still recovering from a massive recession, there are more hungry people now than when the 2008 bill was written. And in fact, the bill reduces the deficit by $23 billion, in part by ending unnecessary direct payments to farmers and instead ensuring farm programs only kick in when they are truly needed.
In 2008, 28.3 million Americans were enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. By 2013, that number had increased to 47.6 million, and over those five years, the average benefit per person increased by 30 percent. The new farm bill is intended to help those who need it most in tough times.
One in six citizens in urban centers qualifies for food assistance through the SNAP program. In rural areas, the number is precisely the same: one in six. The farm bill bridges the differences between people in the city and in the country.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, Americans spend seven percent of their disposable income on food. That’s the lowest in the world. By providing assistance to farmers and ranchers in times of natural disasters or price collapse, this farm bill will help keep family farmers farming and allow Americans the assurance of a healthy, affordable and abundant domestic food supply.
If there’s anything that this pie chart shows us, it’s that the farm bill is first and foremost a food bill.