As we approach Independence Day, more and more Americans are paying closer attention to where their food comes from – whether it’s our amber waves of grain or America’s fruited plain.
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a renewed interest in America’s farmers and ranchers and how the government supports our agricultural producers as they work hard to ensure that grocery store shelves stay stocked with affordable and safe food. Even during a public health crisis.
To help put some context around these big public policy questions, Farm Policy Facts is taking a look at how Congress and the White House have guided farm policy through the years, using the words of American presidents as our guideposts, including insights from presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Clinton and Trump.
This episode of Groundwork airs just in time for the 4th of July holiday and features recordings of presidents discussing how American farm policy has kept our nation strong.
We kick it off with this timeless quote from President Ronald Reagan:
“You know, I’ve always thought that when we Americans get up in the morning, when we see bacon, eggs, toast, and milk on our breakfast table, we should give thanks that our farmers are survivors. You are the real miracle workers of the modern world — keepers of an incredible system based on faith, freedom, hard work, productivity, and profit — a system that feeds us and sustains millions of the world’s hungry.”
Jeff Harrison, our farm policy expert this episode, notes that American farm policy traces its roots all the way back to President George Washington and the first Congress.
“American agriculture policy has been around since the very beginning of our country,” Harrison says.
America’s early presidents and statesmen recognized the strategic importance of a farm policy that supports our farmers and ranchers as they produce a safe, abundant and affordable food and fiber supply.
And American farmers and ranchers do more than help feed the world – they are a part of a long and great American family tradition that also supports our economy and create millions of jobs.
Agriculture contributes $992 billion to the GDP or about 6 percent of the economy, Harrison says. It accounts for 21 million American jobs or 11 percent of the workforce. And the international demand for the high-quality goods produced by our farmers and ranchers drive a trade surplus.
All of this for the government’s small investment into a strong farm policy.
“And for all this, we are paying less of our disposable income for food than any other citizen in the world,” Harrison says. “There are seven other countries where people spend less than 10 percent of their disposable income on food and they don’t even come close to the United States in terms of how low our food costs are. And it’s all being done, all this is supported by, expenditure from the taxpayer of less than a quarter of a percent.”
Federal farm policies account for less than a quarter of a percent of the total federal annual budget, but they have been key to securing the most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world. The U.S. Department of Agriculture calculates that the average American spent only 4.9 percent of their income purchasing food to eat at home in 2019.
“That is a remarkable story,” Harrison says. “It’s been 200 years of building this incredible, successful model. This thing is too important to tear down – we’ve got to keep building.”
Thank you to America’s farmers and ranchers – from sea to shining sea – and all of those who support a strong farm policy.
Listen to the full episode of Groundwork here or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.