Animal Agriculture Industry: Factory Farming- Part 3
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress passed the first Farm Bill during the Great Depression in 1933, with a goal of keeping food prices fair for farmers and consumers; to ensure adequate food supply; and to protect and sustain the countries vital natural resources. Congress drafts a new farm bill every five years, which builds upon the previous bill and makes changes in accordance with the current state of the food and agricultural industry.
Important issues within the Farm Bill
- Crop insurance
- International trade
- Rural development
- Local food systems.
- Loans to beginning farmers
- Research and Development
- Racial equity.
Our current farm and agricultural policy encourages commodity (most valuable and widely used) crops like soy, wheat, dairy, corn from mega factory farms, which Americans subsidize with their tax dollars.
The abundance of commodity crops contributes:
- To mass factory farm animal slaughter, as the majority of animal feed comes in the form of soy, corn, and wheat.
- Contributes to environmental degradation. Larger factory farms graze and pollute larger areas of land and emit larger amounts of greenhouse gases (carbon, methane and nitrous oxide).
- Leads to less small and medium-sized family farms, who are unable to compete with and are bought up by the larger factory farms, and then are consolidated into agricultural monopolies that lower the quality of their crops and increase their prices, as there is less competition from domestic farmers.
- Larger factory farms are protected by the U.S. government against international agricultural producers while receiving a majority of the taxpayer-funded subsidies through crop insurance and commodity insurance programs (discussed below).
The Farm Bill from 2014-2018 brakes down into Twelve Titles, with a total spend of $489 billion:
- Title 1- Commodities: $23.5 billion over five years, five percent of total amount. Ensures that farmers growing major crops like corn, dairy, soy, rice, sugar, grain, wheat, pigs, cows, peanuts remain stable during volatile economic and environmental periods by eroding these farmers with taxpayer-funded subsidies, bailouts, and crop insurance through USDA programs.
After international trade agreements, like NAFTA, which ship jobs and manufacturing overseas, prices drop on American crops/agriculture, as American farmers are forced to compete with other countries that charge less for their product and are willing to pay the high tariffs (import taxes) to sell to U.S. consumers. American farmers require payment from the government (taxpayers) to stay in business and compete against international farmers.
Guaranteed taxpayer funded payments and subsidies were given to farmers in several farm bills, regardless of market price of crops and agriculture; but these guaranteed taxpayer funded subsidies to farmers were eventually replaced with revenue Crop Insurance programs (less costly to taxpayers than direct subsidies), which provide farmers with income when crop prices drop too low. This commodity program is often abused by the largest factory mega farms that are capable of buying up the most land to produce the largest quantity of commodity crops in order to receive the biggest amount of taxpayer funded subsidies.
- Title 2- Conservation: $28.2 billion, six percent of the total amount. Created in 1985 Farm Bill. Rewards and incentivizes farmers that protect their soil, crops, and environment through sustainable conservation practices.
- Title 3- Trade: $1.8 billion, .4 percent of total spending. It provides low-interest loans to countries that import U.S. farm goods.
- Title 4- Nutrition: $390 billion, 80 percent of the total. The largest section in terms of cost within the farm bill. Includes SNAP (Food Stamps). Assists 40 million elderly, young and low-income Americans with funding for food. Children account for 4 of 10 recipients. SNAP acts as a nutrition program, an anti-poverty program and an economic stimulus program, which lifts 5 million Americans out of poverty, including 2 million children, each year. SNAP provides fresh fruit and vegetables to public schools; a food insecurity nutrition program, which incentivizes people to purchase fruit and vegetables at farmers markets and local grocery stores; provides emergency food assistance to elderly and low-income Americans.
- Title 5- Credit: Required by farmers to purchase land, equipment, infrastructure, feed, livestock, fuel, farm chemicals, living expenses, improvements and repairs, general farm operating expenses, direct operating loan (guaranteed loans to farmers that do not qualify for private/commercial loans). The government earns money from this program in the form of interest payments from farmers.
- Title 6- Rural Development: $218 million, .04 percent of the total. It provides funding to rural american as the urban population expands.
- Title 7- Research, Extension, and Related Matters: $800 million, .16 percent of the total. Provides education, outreach and mentoring to the next generation of american farmers and ranchers.
- Title 8-Forestry: $8 million, .002 percent of total. Supports forests, especially on private lands, through financial assistance. Funding to protect endangered species, carbon sequestration techniques, enhance biodiversity.
- Title 9- Energy: $625 million, .13 percent of the total. Supports renewable energy and biofuel programs. It provides loans for the development of renewable energy technology.
- Title 10- Horticulture: $874 million, .18 percent of the total. Provides funding to specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, nuts, that take up relatively little space, but are considered high-value crops. Not protected by funding as a commodity crop.
- Title 11- Crop Insurance: $41.5 billion over five years, 8 percent of the total. Government/taxpayers assist farmers that suffer from natural climate disasters or other circumstances that threaten crop yields. But as the climate continues to change, creating more destructive storms and natural disasters, farmers will require more insurance payments at higher costs to American taxpayers. More than 20 percent of these crop insurance payments go to the richest one percent of American farms.
Under the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP), farmers used to receive direct payments from the USDA (taxpayers) for producing commodity crops like corn, wheat, and soy. This program was eliminated in the 2014 Bill and replaced with Crop Insurance subsidies, which provides commodity crop producers with payment in the event of a natural disaster or a low crop yield season. The USDA estimates that corn and soybean growers received 25 percent ($13.9 billion) of their revenue for 2016 from taxpayer funded crop insurance.
These crop insurance payments from taxpayers continue to increase as natural disasters worsen from climate change (which large factory farms contribute to with their pollution, their carbon, methane and nitrous oxide emission). The Congressional Budget Office estimates that FCIP will cost taxpayers $22 billion for the years 2016, 2017, 2018- a nine percent increase from the previous estimate for these years- according to the National Agricultural Law Center. Therefore, not only do American taxpayers subsidize the factory farms that contribute the most to environmental pollution and climate change, but are also left with the bill in order to bail the factory farms out after these climate disasters threaten crop yields.
Insuring Factory Farms at Taxpayer Expense
- $15.8 billion: Cost to U.S. taxpayers in 2012 for providing crop insurance – an overwhelming majority of which went to the largest factory farms.
- $96.4 billion: Cost to U.S. taxpayers for subsidizing the Crop Insurance Program from 1995-2012.
- $90 billion: Cost of crop insurance to U.S. taxpayers over the next 10 years.
- 75: Percentage of 2012 crop insurance payouts shouldered by taxpayers.
- Title 12- Miscellaneous: $1.5 billion, .32 percent of total. Provides outreach to protect socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers to prevent history of racial and gender discrimination in the farming industry. Prioritizes african american, latino, women native american and other minority farmers.
What’s Inside the 2018 Farm Bill?
Congress finalized the most recent Farm Bill on December 20, 2018, which covers spending over the course of the next five and ten year spans, with $428 billion in taxpayer funding over the next five years and $867 in taxpayer funding over the next ten years. Crop insurance, conservation, and commodity programs account for $199 billion (23%) of the 2018 Farm Bill budget.
- A big win for major factory farms and corporate mega farms. The 2018 Bill widens loopholes for wealthy mega farms to exploit the Title 1 Commodities program and Crop Insurance program to receive the majority of taxpayer funded subsidies.
- Makes farm consolidation, mergers, acquisitions, and buyouts more likely as small and medium sized family farms will have to sell out (contract) to larger farms in order to remain in business, which harms rural communities and threatens economic stability.
- Provides funding for rural community, farm aid and development.
- No major cuts to SNAP funding. More than 76 percent of 2018 Farm Bill spending is projected to go towards nutrition programs, which equates to $326 billion over five years and $664 billion in funding over the next ten years.
- Expands organic food access and support.
- Created the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program (FOTO), which combines the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program from Title 7 of the 2014 Bill and the Outreach/Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (called Section 2501) from Title 12 of 2014 Bill. The 2018 Bill provides $50 million annually to these programs.
- Legalizes industrial hemp production by removing it from the controlled substance list; potentially a $20 billion industry by 2022. Part 4