Farm to 'Put a Fork in It': Why We Can't Afford to Polarize the Next Farm Bill

As a third-generation farmer, I understand that farm to fork is more than just a catch phrase. Food is what connects consumers to farmers and ranchers nationwide; it's a basic life need for all people. Unfortunately, we've seen food and farm policy get overshadowed by more polarizing issues on the national political stage.

Regardless of political affiliation or affinity towards farming, if you eat food, it is important to understand why the next Farm Bill must include both farming and nutrition programs, strong safety nets for producers, and meaningful conservation programs.

Farmers and consumers alike benefit from Farm Bill programs. The nutrition programs foster food purchases and provide consumers of all income levels with access to healthy, nutritious food options. Farm programs help ensure family farmers and ranchers are still on the land to grow food through prolonged periods of economic downturn like the farm sector is currently facing.

The strained state of our farm economy will require Congress to carefully review and provide meaningful reform to our safety net programs in the next Farm Bill. That safety net should provide help only in difficult circumstances: when disaster strikes and when markets collapse.

In addition, conservation programs assist farmers and ranchers in implementing sustainable practices and programs on their operations, protecting our environment and natural resources. Farmers and consumers alike share concerns about the effects of our changing climate, and it's important to get the agriculture industry involved in solutions to mitigate climate change.

The historic partnership of nutrition and farm programs has been crucial to ensuring the quantity and quality of food available to consumers. We witnessed the impact of dividing the nutrition and farm programs when the 2012 Farm Bill was eventually passed two years later as the 2014 Farm Bill. We cannot allow for these programs to be split in the next Farm Bill.

This fall, candidates from either party will disagree on many issues, but food and farming are issues we can all agree upon. Family farmers and ranchers are the backbone of this country, and consumers provide a market for American producers to sell their safe, quality products.

Our basic life needs are not bound by red and blue on a political map; food is a necessity for everyone. It is our moral obligation, rather than our political impulse, that should motivate improvements to food and farm policy programs this election season and in the next Farm Bill cycle.