I know of several individuals who work in fields at least related to things like gardening and agriculture, but there is no denying that the vast majority of people nowadays work in industries that most consider to be more modern. I find it so strange that less than a hundred years ago citizens and elected officials considered the United States to be an agrarian society. Today, if I ask someone what they think of when they consider future industry and society, I feel confident that agriculture is not on their mind. I began to wonder how and when this country’s perception of agriculture changed from being most people’s reality to a more inauspicious career choice.
One of the key changes that I think signaled this change came in 1933 when Congress passed Agriculture Adjustment Act (AAA). Updating this legislation is now a requirement for Congress, so every 5 years they pass a new farm bill. Many people today however, including those working in industries related to gardening and agriculture, are unaware of how significant this legislation is and how the government’s role in agriculture affects so much more than just farmers.
Simply put, The Agriculture Adjustment Act began the tradition of farm subsidies. There is a ton of good information available on the history of the AAA, subsequent farm bills, and subsidies, so I won’t list their specific purposes and effects here. I’ll just say that our tradition in this country is to provide financial safeguards to farmers responsible for, what have historically been, our most profitable agricultural exports. These financial supports usually focus on covering farmers’ losses in years when prices drop, and as I said, apply primarily to farmers who grow specific crops. These crops include grains such as wheat, corn, rice, barley, oats, and many other products that are ingredients in feed for livestock or at least classified by the USDA as “bulk commodities.”
1933 marked the year that the United States changed its approach to agriculture in order to adjust to economies that were expanding across the world, and these policies were successful in saving farmer financially. However, there are still many more lenses apart from just economics through which we can look at farming that yield different questions and concerns. In 2018 Congress will be responsible for a new farm bill, and this legislation will shape our agricultural priorities in the coming years.
I’ll put it another way
This legislation dictates what we plan to do with our land. It reviews how we choose to support farmers, what we want them to grow, whether or not they should explore new techniques or take certain precautions. In 1933 the biggest threats to farmers was a failing economy, and an economic solution helped protect them. Financial support for farmers remains crucial. However, it has also become increasingly clear that mineral deficiencies in soil and erosion are also very real threats not only to farmers, but also to everyone that relies on farmers for their products and their stewardship of this country’s land, which is literally everyone.
If you understand the need to adapt to a changing environment, if you understand that the priorities of farmers’ and their land are the priorities of everyone, look up the farm bill. Educate yourself on policy that tangibly affects you in a way that few others do.
Some farm bill history
Description of types of loans/subsidies for farmers
Details of post 2014 farm bill subsidy and loan changes
Upcoming 2018 farm bill