Farm Bill 2018 affects more than just your food. This potential renewal exacerbates income/wealth inequalities.
Get educated on policy decisions (such as the Farm Bill), call local senators to voice your opinions!
The Farm Bill, Income Inequality, and Jeff Bezos
Every 5 years, U.S Congress renews the Farm Bill, which governs a plethora of food and agricultural programs. The Farm Bill is critical in determining how the United States will implement domestic nutrition assistance, foreign food aid, farm credit, rural development, agricultural conservation, farm commodity price and income supports, and related research. The Farm Bill is of mass importance to the citizens of the United States and has the potential to either greatly support or greatly devastate low-income households.
This year, the Farm Bill must be renewed. The 2018 Farm Bill provided by the House of Representatives has yet to pass, and citizen action is of growing importance. The proposal of the House of Representatives will only increase income inequality, both globally and domestically. If passed, it would act in favor of large corporations while simultaneously disadvantaging small farms and people of low-income.
Impacts on Small Farms and People of Low-Income
The proposed changes in policy would heavily impact income inequality by helping the rich get richer. While there are several new financial perks for massive farms in the 2018 Farm Bill, one of the major red flags is the House’s attempt to discontinue the legal prevention of allowing corporations to receive unlimited commodity repayments. This would only further the consolidation of the source of food that the United States has already begun to see. In fact, as of 2015, most of the food within the United States comes from farms with over one million dollars in annual sales (Sustainable Agriculture, 2018). Creating policy that heavily benefits large farms allows these farms rapid growth, and in turn results in smaller farms being pushed out.
Small farms would be further disadvantaged by the bill because the bill would decrease farmers from being able to start and sustain their farms. The USDA’s Rural Development Program is heavily depended on by farmers attempting to begin and stay on their feet, but the bill would revoke a hefty amount of these opportunities by failing to renew its funding. This would, again, decrease the amount of food that comes from small farms by decreasing the small farms to exist, and redistributing that profit to massive farms.
Furthermore, the House’s version of the 2018 Farm Bill would devastate the food insecure. If passed, this bill would increase hardship for more than two million people by making drastic cuts to SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Not only would this cut be devastating to those who use the program, it would also be devastating to the small farmers that rely on sales because of this program, which is approximately 19.4 million dollars at farmers markets alone (Farmers Market Coalition, 2018).
So, How Does Jeff Bezos Benefit from all of this?
Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive officer of Amazon, is one of the wealthiest people in the world. With his money, Bezos has recently acquired Whole Foods, a company that notoriously contracts with massive farmers within the agricultural industry. Along with Bezos’ new relationship with Whole Foods, and the millions of dollars he has invested in massive agricultural companies, it is safe to say that he would benefit greatly from the House’s proposed Farm Bill of 2018. Jeff Bezos is a perfect example of the rich getting richer, while the poor only get poorer, and unfortunately, he is only one of the unfathomably rich. Jeff Bezos does not need a larger income, but people of low-income certainly do.
For further explanation of the history of Farm Bill:
Severe drought and improper farming methods contributed to the Dust Bowl catastrophe of the 1930’s, causing widespread poverty within farming communities across the country. Farmers had a surplus of crop supply, lowering the demand and prices for the goods themselves. In response to the impacts of the dust bowl conjoined with the economical impacts of the Great Depression, Congress passed the first Farm Bill in 1933, known as the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). This Bill paid farmers to reduce farm yields and production on a percentage of their land, as well as enabled the government to purchase excess grain from farmers, which could be sold at a later point when demand was high. The AAA included a nutrition program, which is the precursor to food stamps.
Since that first bill in 1933, the government has been reforming the Farm bill every 5 years to assess and reassess needs of farmers. This includes changes from food and agriculture, to trade, energy production on farms, and the economy in rural areas.
The 2018 Farm Bill is a systematic effort aiming to reform the welfare system in the country. There are stark differences between the proposed House proposed Farm Bill and proposed Senate Farm Bill, we are currently awaiting compromise before the bill is sent to the U.S. presidents desk.
The 2018 House farm bill proposal is a burden on farmers and taxpayers across the country as it only amounts to a “huge payout to corporate players”. The 2018 version of this bill removes beneficial reforms from the previous 2014 bill.
The 2018 bill is intending to pay large industrial farms subsidies from the allocation of taxpayer money, and removes the ruling which prevents corporate farms from receiving “unlimited subsidy payments”. This policy has been benefiting localized sustainable farmers for over 30 years, and if reversed, will harm local economies and encourage outsourced industrialization in the agricultural field. The House farm bill of 2018 benefits large corporate players while silencing smaller farmers. It is unfair and an injustice.
The 2018 Senate farm bill is a complete contrast to the House bill in that it stops taxpayer money from going straight to large corporate farms, instead it caps it off at $125,000 annually which is more equitable to all farmers both small and large.The senate farm bill also provides beneficial crop insurance to help with risk management of farmers crops. It also incentivises conservation practices of soil and water on farms.Overall, the 2018 Senate Farm bill is much more equitable and helpful to farmers.
This farm bill will support rural economy, founding programs that safeguards natural resource, leading to sustainability. The Bill will provide fund for supporting local and regional food systems across the country, promoting sustainable methods of farming as will as helping farmers of color and minorities.The 2018 farm bill historically provided funds for critical nutrition assistance programs for poor, elderly and disabled americans, the Senate farm bill will continue to do this.
In conclusion, the Senate farm bill is equitable to farmers and protects taxpayer money from flowing to large corporate farms while also providing risk management of crops for farmers in addition to other programs and benefits. Opposingly, the House farm bill is unjust to farmers and only benefits large corporate farms while neglecting smaller farmers who need the most help. Negotiates and political debates are still on-going to see if a compromise can be made between the House and Senate bill before it is sent to the president’s desk for review and approval.
Farmers Market Coalition. (2018). SNAP. Retrieved from https://farmersmarketcoalition.org/advocacy/snap/
National Sustainable Agriculture Commission. (2018, June 07). Top Ten Reasons to Reject the House Farm Bill. Retrieved from http://sustainableagriculture.net/