A North Dakota Farmer Discusses the Farm Bill

The U.S. Farm Bill was started to help farmers following the Great Depression in 1933, and it’s been controversial ever since. 

Every five years the bill is revised on Capitol Hill, and this is one of those years. 

Put simply, the Farm Bill provides a safety net for prices and production in agriculture. 

Square Butte Farms Manager Kent Albers says, “It’s actually a program designed to ensure that there is plentiful food in the United States and I think it works pretty well.”

Here’s a breakdown of where the estimated 97 billion dollars a year goes:

– 80 percent of the bill goes toward nutrition, ensuring low income families have food on the table no matter the season.

– Eight percent is set aside for crop insurance. 

– Five percent goes to commodities in the form of direct payments to farmers.

– Another six percent is dedicated to conservation.

Albers says for his farm, crop insurance is the most important portion of the bill.

Bismarck State College Farm Management Education Instructor Kyle Olson says, “It’s a calculation that takes historical yield and historical price to set a benchmark. And then if things drop below that, then payments are made.”

For example, Albers says an acre on his wheat farm is worth about 250 dollars. He says he can protect each acre up to 150 dollars. 

About half of the insurance price is paid by taxpayers and the other half, Albers pays himself.

He says it’s a good partnership, and he hopes the level of spending on the farm bill is not reduced.

Albers adds, “The farm economy and the whole U.S. economy, or the business economy, do not run in tandem. So right now while you have a very strong business economy, we have a weak farm economy.”

Olson says, “The unique thing about agriculture is that everybody is an individual producer. So everybody’s operations, even if you had twins that ran two different operations, they would be completely different.”

Ultimately, it’s important to keep the bill diversified. 

The farm bill could be voted on as early as December.

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