This Week’s Report: “Farm Policy”

As this year’s devastating drought in the Midwestern corn and soybean belt has shown, farmers can never count on success until their crops are harvested and safely stored or sold. Weather, insects, the global economy and consumer demand all help shape farmers’ destiny. Add to that list: politics.

This summer Congress has been wrestling with passage of a sprawling new farm bill that, over the next decade, will determine nearly $1 trillion in federal spending  for subsidies for farmers, food aid for the needy, land conservation, rural development and agriculture imports and exports. As writer Jennifer Weeks explains, conservatives argue that Washington spends too much on crop insurance and other agricultural subsidies and on food programs for the poor. Liberals oppose cuts to food aid for the needy and advocate more federal support for small family farms and for production of healthy crops such as fruits and vegetables.

Farm policy is extraordinarily complex and spans everything from biofuel production and cotton-farm subsidies to export policy and food stamps for the poor. Weeks’ report deconstructs the complexities and includes a spirited pro/con debate on whether U.S. farm policy promotes unhealthy eating.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor