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The “Farm Bill” is the nickname for the broad piece of federal legislation, reauthorized approximately every five years, that creates rules and programs related to many areas of food and agriculture. The current version of the Farm Bill, titled the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, will be up for reauthorization in 2012. The 2012 Farm Bill presents an important opportunity to shape our food and conservation policies for the next five years.
The Farm Bill concerns more than just farms. The Farm Bill impacts all components of our food system; how our rural communities are shaped, how our land and natural resources are managed, how our food is grown and sold, the size of our farms and how far our food must travel to get to our tables, whether our food is safe and properly labeled, and who has access to healthy and affordable food.
One in four Michigan jobs now relies on agriculture. The food and agriculture industry continues to grow in Michigan and is currently the second leading industry contributing $71 billion to Michigan’s economy. Due to the decline in manufacturing, this sector may soon take the lead. The programs included in the 2012 Farm Bill will have a tremendous impact on Michigan’s economy, cultural identity, and quality of life.
The federal Farm Bill isn’t just about crop subsidies and farm regulation. It is also the most important legislation affecting the nutrition and food assistance programs that provide a vital safety net for struggling families, children and seniors. In fact, 75 percent of the Farm Bill budget is allocated to programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps), the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and others.
Gleaners and food banks across the country also receive significant support through the Farm Bill, which allows us to supply millions of pounds of emergency food annually to our local communities. In our last complete fiscal year, Gleaners provided 9.6 million pounds of emergency food that was provided through the Farm Bill, representing 26 percent of our total distribution. Through the Summer Food Service Program, also funded by the Farm Bill, Gleaners provided children with 19,273 meals to replace the free lunches they receive during the school year.
The 2012 Farm Bill presents an important opportunity for lawmakers to promote programs that will help revitalize our economy by expanding opportunities to connect farmers and local consumers, removing barriers for beginning farmers, improving the productivity of our workforce by ensuring that all individuals have access to an affordable and healthy diet, and protecting the future quality of our natural resources.
With the current federal budget deficit, there will likely be major cuts to Farm Bill programs. Programs with no baseline funding after 2012 are easy targets and are in danger of disappearing completely. These include many programs related to conservation, nutrition, and beginning farmer and rancher support. Cutting these programs would disproportionately affect low-income consumers, small and mid-size farms, and beginning and minority farmers. It is our responsibility to ensure the protection of these critical programs.
Gleaners accepts in-kind donations of goods and services.
You can support Gleaners through your will or estate plan.
A gift to the Gleaners Endowment Fund will help ensure Gleaners is able to meet the needs of hungry children, families and seniors well into the future.