January 28, 2019

What Americans Want in the Farm Bill

Lacey Gaechter

Lacey Gaechter

CLF-Lerner Fellow

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

This post is the fourth in a series—Connecting Agriculture Policy to Your Health—by CLF-Lerner Fellow Lacey Gaechter.

With debates over the 2018 Farm Bill now in our rearview mirror, this is the time for food citizens to start advocating for our next Farm Bill, and a project of the Center for A Livable Future (CLF) offers insight into what the American people want to see in the 2023 version.

So how do we want our food policies to reflect our food priorities? According to CLF’s 2018 National Farm Bill Poll of 1,005 registered US voters, rolled out as part of the Food Citizen Project, only one in five of us are familiar with the Farm Bill. In fact, nearly half of us have never heard of the bill, despite the fact that it’s arguably the piece of legislation that affects our food system more than any other.

Of course, you don’t need to understand food policy to understand the importance of food. According to the findings of this poll, we overwhelmingly want a food system that supports our farmers and encourages them to grow the foods that are best for our health in a way that will allow future generations to do the same.

Summary of our food and farm priorities:

We love our farmers!

  • 80% of those polled think the federal government has a responsibility to support our farmers, even though only 60% think the government should be more involved in our daily lives in general.
  • 85% specifically want increased support (via crop insurance and conservation programs) for farmers and ranchers who are new, socially disadvantaged, and/or veterans.

We want to grow our food in a way that allows future generations to feed themselves.

  • 84% of the people polled think that only farmers who implement conservation practices should be eligible to receive subsidized crop insurance.
  • 67% of people polled think it’s more important for agriculture to use sustainable practices than to keep food costs low now.
  • 54% prioritize conserving agricultural resources over increasing agricultural production.

We want more support for foods that promote our health.

  • 82% of polled voters want crop insurance offered for fruits, vegetables, nuts, and organic crops.

While there appears to be overwhelming agreement on these broad priorities, responses were more evenly divided in areas including food assistance, regulations for large-scale industrial food animal production facilities, and how funding for conservation practices should be specifically used.

While providing a wealth of nuanced information on our opinions on food and agriculture policy, this National Farm Bill Poll makes two things conspicuously obvious.

  • The first is that US voters are unified in a very clear and simple food and farm policy agenda: support our farmers, prioritize growing healthy food, and insist on agricultural practices that protect our great grandchildren’s ability to feed themselves.
  • The second is that most of us rely on our legislators to be amongst the 2% of our population that knows enough about the Farm Bill to bring this agenda to fruition.

It is likely that many people reading this blogpost are themselves amongst that most informed 2 percent and are thus aware that only a minority of Farm Bill policies actually do support a growing population of US farmers, the production of healthy foods, or sustainable agriculture practices.

I dare to hope that we will be able to use the findings of this poll to encourage policymakers toward a Farm Bill that promotes these simple and sensible priorities, shared by the majority of constituents. Let advocates and legislators alike recognize that very few voters will devote time to fully understanding the 800-page Farm Bill, but that we nevertheless have a clear mandate in the type of food system we build.

Image Source: https://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-a-livable-future/_pdf/projects/food-citizen/national-farm-bill-poll-presentation.pdf

One Comment

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