Amy-Lynn Albertson: Celebrate agriculture at the Salute to Agri-Business Breakfast

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 25, 2023

By Amy-Lynn Albertson
N.C. Cooperative Extension

Every year, Rowan County Cooperative Extension and the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce promote agriculture awareness with the Power in Partnership Breakfast “Salute to Agri-Business.” This year the breakfast will be on March 16 at the West End Plaza event center at 7 a.m. The keynote speaker is Jake Parker, lobbyist and legal counsel for N.C. Farm Bureau. The breakfast will feature a breakfast made from locally grown products from Rowan County. Contact Cooperative Extension or the chamber of commerce for more information about the breakfast. One of the topics the speaker will talk about will be the farm bill.

In 2023, the federal government is supposed to vote on a new farm bill. The current farm bill expires in September of 2023. The farm bill connects the food on our plates, the farmers and ranchers who produce that food and the natural resources that make growing food possible. Originally a product of the New Deal, the first farm bill in 1933 focused on commodity price support to provide relief for farmers and ensure a steady domestic food supply for Americans during the Great Depression. Its three original goals — to keep food prices fair for farmers and consumers, ensure an adequate food supply, and protect and sustain the country’s vital natural resources — responded to the economic and environmental crises of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. While the farm bill has changed in the last 70 years, its primary goals are the same. The most recent farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, has 12 titles. The farm bill’s 12 titles help strengthen local infrastructure, support rural economic development initiatives, protect our nation’s food supply, increase access to healthy food for low-income populations and promote environmental stewardship and conservation. A significant portion of the farm bill’s budget is allocated to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program SNAP, formally known as food stamps. This program provides more than 40 million low-income Americans with monthly grocery assistance. Most farm bill crop subsidies go to the major commodity crops: corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice. According to an analysis from the Cato Institute, the big three of corn, soybean and wheat farmers receive more than 70 percent of farm subsidies.

For this 2023 farm bill, the current state of the domestic and international economies is creating tension between increasing the production of commodities and conserving our natural resources. These issues drive the conversation for many ongoing farm bill hearings. Bipartisanship will be required to pass the 2023 farm bill. It must address critical conservation, climate change and nutrition issues to win the majority of the Senate and House of Representatives. The House might be particularly challenging given the need for more rural representation and turnover in the next election. Many new members need a more direct connection with agriculture and experience with the farm bill process. Since only 35 congressional districts are classified as rural out of 435 districts today, traditional agricultural and rural interests must unite with other interests related to nutrition and conservation. For more information about the farm bill or other agricultural topics call the Rowan County Extension Center at 704-216-8970.

Should the U.S. Congress fail to reach a new reauthorization by Sept. 30, the 2018 Farm Bill must be extended to prevent reverting back to dairy support pricing included in the 1949 Farm Bill, which would essentially double the price consumers are currently paying for dairy products.

Amy-Lynn Albertson is director of the Rowan County Extension.

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