It’s a nursery rhyme we all learned and loved as kids – “Old MacDonald Had A Farm.”
The song has its roots in English folk music with one of the earliest variants published around 1720. By the 1920s, school children everywhere were singing the tune and thinking of agriculture.
Congress passed the first Farm Bill to help real Old MacDonalds who were struggling during the Great Depression. And lawmakers revisit the bill about every 5 years because, in contrast to the nursery rhyme, Old MacDonalds must constantly evolve with new tools, technologies and techniques to meet new challenges.
During some debates, times were bad on the farm – like the economic crisis of the 1980s that was the worst to hit rural America since the Dust Bowl era.
Other times, things were better – like 2014 when the last Farm Bill was written and prices had strengthened. Critics of farm policy claimed, back then, that because prices were up, America didn’t need as strong of a farm safety net.
They advocated for weaker crop insurance and substantial budget cuts. But agricultural champions – like Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas and his House counterpart, Mike Conaway of Texas – were quick to point out that Farm Bills are written for the bad times, not the good.
And bad times, just like the E-I-E-I-O refrain in Old MacDonald, inevitably return.
Things have taken an abrupt turn since 2014. Farm incomes are at their lowest point in 12 years. Crop prices are down. Loan defaults are on the rise. Many farmers are forced to take second jobs to make ends meet. Weather disasters have pummeled many areas. Foreign subsidies and market manipulation are commonplace. And overseas competitors have targeted U.S. farmers and ranchers as trade wars loom.
We know the committees in Washington are working hard on the next Farm Bill. We’re hopeful Congress will have a good bill to consider after the Easter recess that gives farmers the tools they need to cope with today’s unique challenges.
We’d like to see a bill that protects America’s food security and creates a level playing field for farmers who must compete in a highly-subsidized and increasingly unstable global market.
We hope for bipartisan support that recognizes the Farm Bill’s unparalleled return on taxpayer investment. America enjoys the most affordable, widely available food supply in the history of mankind for about one-quarter of 1% of the federal budget.
Unfortunately, opponents of American agriculture still want to leave our farmers and ranchers without any policies to rebuild after weather disasters, survive the falling farm economy, or withstand the rising tide of foreign market manipulation.
So, for the critics, we’ve got an updated take on Old MacDonald we hope will help them easily understand why the Farm Bill is critical to our nation.
It goes like this:
You get the picture.