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The Farm Bill and the rural/urban divide
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First, the weather outlook from December 19th to the 23rd. There is a very strong chance for above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation. The outlook from the 21st to the 27th is calling for above normal temperatures and for precipitation to be slightly above normal to normal which means not much. So if you want a want Christmas you are probably out of luck. However, if you are travelling in the region, you are probably in luck. Time will tell.

While the President hasn’t yet signed it, we have a Farm Bill. The bill passed with overwhelming support in both the House and Senate. This is good news on a number of levels. Conservation is receiving a boost. Other programs producers rely on seem relatively the same. In addition, the fight occurring every time over nutritional assistance was settled with requirements remaining essentially the same. Both sides of the issues are somewhat happy and somewhat not so happy which means compromise ruled. And in case you didn’t know, the amount of funding funneled to producers is small compared to nutritional assistance termed SNAP or in the old days, the Food Stamp Program. Compared to most years, there was little effort to separate the two, which most objective observers see as a good thing. This column isn’t about the details but the sausage making regarding the bill. Why are these two items placed together? Simply the rural/urban divide.

Legislation has to pass the House and Senate. With two Senators in each state, Senators represent both rural and urban interests. Even in states like California, Florida, Texas, and New York, Senators must address a substantial rural interest. However, the House is another matter. Many, likely a large majority, House members represent urban districts with little direct involvement in production agriculture. These urban Representatives are more concerned with the problems such as urban poverty and hunger. Representatives wanting/needing a to help producers through the agricultural part of the Farm Bill couldn’t get what they think their constituents need without the support of urban legislatures. Urban legislatures need the support of rural members to obtain the support for food and other assistance for the poor and distressed. Hence, we have the bill we have. And those of us living in rural areas benefit from SNAP. As a percentage, people living in rural areas benefit from and use SNAP much more than those in urban areas.

One last thought. We think of Kansas as a rural, farming state. In many ways we are. But here is the reality. We have four members in the House. One essentially represents the Kansas City area. The other the Wichita metro area. The vast majority of Kansans live in those two areas. Population wise we are an urban state. 

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.