Tiny but mighty: Farm bill programs punching above their weight
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Have you eaten something today? If the answer is yes, you can thank a farmer.

In 1933, Congress created the “farm bill” to provide a safety net for struggling farmers in the midst of the Great Depression. Over 75 years later, the farm bill has evolved and grown to address a broad spectrum of agricultural needs. In order to foster a robust American food and farm system that we can be proud of, we need a farm bill that addresses every aspect of our food system from farm to fork.

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In terms of dollars and cents, the largest parts of the farm bill are the nutrition title, crop insurance subsidies, conservation programs, and commodity subsidies. Most of the programs in these four big buckets have what’s called “baseline funding,” meaning they will continue whether Congress writes a new farm bill or not. In contrast, there are a number of smaller yet still important farm bill-funded programs that do not have this same “baseline funding” protection. They are the farm bill’s unsung heroes.

Despite their size, these programs are helping drive innovation and growth throughout our farm and food system. They support training and education for our nation’s future farmers and ranchers, provide funding for critical research on organic and specialty crops like fruit and vegetables, and help keep our farmers’ markets open and accessible to communities. These small but mighty programs are also focused on serving farmers, ranchers, and food-producing communities that have historically been overlooked by the federal government. Many help to foster entrepreneurial agriculture and small business development, which is sorely needed during a time when farm incomes are threatened by low commodity prices and rural communities continue to battle population loss. And to think these programs do all of this and more with just 0.5 percent of the farm bill budget.

Congress must pass a farm bill on time and provide more funding for these critical programs. If for any reason a farm bill has not been signed into law by September 2018, Congress should take action to keep these innovative, community-sustaining programs alive.

I am on a mission to raise the profile of the unsung heroes of the farm bill, those programs that cost relatively little but punch well above their weight. They represent the kind of innovative, time-tested solutions we should be rewarding on Capitol Hill. I am committed to doing everything I can to fight for the policies that support our nation’s family farmers and ranchers, create jobs and new markets, and give every American access to fresh and nutritious food. In the coming months, I look forward to sharing stories highlighting the direct and significant impact of these programs with my colleagues in Congress. Homegrown stories straight from the fields and farms of America.

Programs without permanent baseline farm bill funding:

Ryan represents Ohio's 13th District and is a member of the Appropriations Committee.