The farm bill is a big deal for almost anyone in a nutrition or agriculturally-related field, and it ought to matter to everyone who eats in the United States as well as anyone who eats food grown in the United States. (There are effects beyond that, but this is a brief outline). For those less familiar with the American legislative structure, the framework is basic. Congress votes on a bill (the piece of law) that can be made up of smaller parts, like chapters, called titles. Essentially, the title is one area of interest or theme. Titles can change from one bill to another, and they both have and will. Our farm bills are typically voted on every five years or so.

Our current farm bill is the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. It has 15 titles that affect our health, environment, agriculture, and food system as well as trade and food aid abroad. Why bring up the topic? It’s time for a new one. What would you do with the farm bill if you could write it?

1. Commodity programs (these get picked on by some food system advocates)
2. Conservation (underfunded, according to many environmentalists)
3. Trade
4. Nutrition (much of the money spent in the farm bill is actually directed here)
5. Credit
6. Rural development
7. Research (keep funding this area, please)
8. Forestry
9. Energy (biofuels especially)
10. Horticulture and organic agriculture (Really, ought to spend more money on the foods we need to eat more of)
11. Livestock
12. Crop insurance (you might want to delete this, but I suggest keeping it)
13. Commodity futures
14. Miscellaneous
15. Trade and taxes

To find out more, visit the USDA’s Farm Bill Resource page or American Farmland Trust.

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