Hope for a Farm Bill

Now that we have moved beyond the 2006 elections, our representatives will head to Washington. Chief among their duties is to pass laws, and one of the most important tasks of this Congress will be to pass a piece of legislation known as the 2007 farm bill.

Parts of this legislation will affect nearly all aspects of our great nation. Some of our best conservation programs will be included. Renewable energy, one of the foremost challenges and opportunities the United States faces today, will be addressed directly. Programs that feed and support our nation’s least fortunate families will be debated and discussed. The programs that attempt to provide a vital safety net to our family farms will be debated; a debate that goes to the heart of what we want our farm economy to look like and where we want our food to come from. Funds for research-- research that so often determines the future of our rural areas-- will be debated and approved. The so-called “farm bill” is about much more than farms. Quite frankly, the farm bill is the single most important piece of legislation affecting all of rural America, and its impact doesn’t stop there. The 2007 farm bill will directly influence all of America, whether it is through the food you eat, the water you drink, the places you live, or the taxes you pay.

When all of America is affected, all of America should be at the table during the debate. For too long our farm bill debates have been dominated by special interests who are only interested in what they can “get”-- often at the expense of worthy, proven programs and strategies that could provide great hope for our rural communities and citizens. We need a farm bill focused on helping all of America, not just a narrow segment of the population.

One way to fail to achieve those goals is to continue giving unlimited subsidy checks to enormous farms. Not only is this wasteful spending, it actually hurts rural America and the farmers these programs are supposed to help. Unlimited subsidies drive up land costs, forcing existing family farmers out of business and making it nearly impossible for young farmers to get started. Family farmers, beginning farmers, and rural communities all suffer under a farm program that subsidizes consolidation and diverts financial resources away from investment in practical strategies that can revitalize rural America.

However, it is not enough to simply oppose a law, a regulation, or a certain type of payment. In opposition we do not find hope for the future. Hope is to be found in the hearts and minds of the rural communities who are most directly affected by the farm bill, and it is those citizens the farm bill must support. Proven, effective strategies such as microenterprise development, conservation on working lands, community development, encouraging new farmers, and building assets in rural areas exist and should be supported fully in the next farm bill. These are strategies of hope.

These strategies and programs place the tools for success in the hands of rural communities and rural citizens, not the hands of faceless bureaucrats in Washington. The solutions to the challenges faced by rural America will be found in rural America, and addressing the challenges of rural America has benefits for all of America. The 2007 farm bill should be efficient, effective, and support the strategies of hope that will make our nation stronger. For our representatives in Congress who will write this bill, that should be considered more than a goal. It should be considered an obligation.

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