Why is the U.S. government bailing out farmers who didn't cover themselves?

By Emily Hutto

ProducersWEB


Why is the USDA covering for more than a quarter of the nation’s farmers and ranchers who didn’t cover themselves?

The USDA announced today that it plans to purchase $170 million worth of meat products from American farmers to support food-aid programs. The purchases will be made through the Emergency Surplus Removal Program, which will allow for the USDA to use government funds to purchase products from farmers who have been affected by natural disasters, mainly widespread drought throughout the United States.

“A major factor affecting livestock producers is the value of feed,” says an article in the Journal Gazette, “which is currently running high because of the drought.”

We’ve always paid a premium to feed livestock, though. According to PETA.org, more than 70 percent of the grain and cereal that is grown in the United States is fed to animals. The website also reports that it takes 16 pounds of that grain to produce just one pound of edible meat.

Today the USDA also authorized a transfer of $14 million into the Emergency Conservation Program to help farmers and ranchers rehabilitate their land damaged during the droughts. These funds will also support water conservation.

Remember that same pound of meat? It takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce it. (It takes about 25 gallons of water to produce a pound of grain, according to PETA).

Within the last month, says the Journal Gazette, the USDA has opened the Conservation Reserve Program (a government-sponsored program to protect sensitive land) for “emergency haying and grazing.” So, in essence, once-protected lands have become victim to agriculture again.

Raising animals for food uses 30 percent of the earth’s land mass says a news story by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). More than 260 million acres of United States forest land have been cleared for the grazing of agricultural animals. The Smithsonian Institution will tell you that seven football fields of land is bulldozed worldwide every minute to create more room for farmed animals.

The USDA’s goal is an important one – to combat the United States’ food shortage by providing greater access to food during natural disaster. If we really want to conquer food shortage, though, the statistics above prove that we’re going about it the wrong way.

I’ll leave you with one last statistic: The Rain and Hail Insurance Society’s 2012 Crop Insurance Update reports that only 69 percent of eligible acres of farmland were insured last year under crop insurance. So why is the USDA covering for more than a quarter of the nation’s farmers who didn’t cover themselves?