Call it what it is: Food security bill

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Name the item, the product or the government term for what it is so people understand. The perfect example is milk. Oh my, that isn’t so perfect. We have had the label washed out and debated. When I think we might be on the right path, I continue to see products that get me confused.

Milk as a noun is an opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals for nourishment of their young. This is the definition of milk, and we should be able to eliminate the plant-based products from the market, forcing them to not use the word milk, right? Wrong.

There is still oat milk, chia and flax milk, soymilk and hemp milk. Now I see a product that is named Not Milk, with a red cow with a black line crossing her out. It is a whole plant-based milk, shelf-stable, lactose-free, vegan and non-GMO. Flip the container around and what is in it? Water, sunflower oil, contains less than 2% of pea protein, sugar, soluble corn fiber, pineapple juice, concentrate, dipotassium phosphate, calcium carbonate, gellan gum, acacia gum, salt, natural flavor, cabbage juice concentrate, vitamin D2 and vitamin B12.

We can all agree this is not milk, and that is labeled correctly. Product lines that have the label reading no antibiotics or no hormones added are clearly implying that the other similar products do have antibiotics and hormones added. I don’t know if that helped at all. It would be easier for everyone if things were named what they are.

This is leading me to go into a conversation that is a hot topic right now, the farm bill. Yes, it is called the farm bill, but really only 18% of the bill is for farms. Depending on where you are getting your information, that percentage varies by 1% or 2%. Yes, that 18% is very important to all of us farmers because of the programs such as crop insurance, incentive-based conservation programs, income support programs such as Agriculture Risk Coverage, Price Loss Coverage, Dairy Margin Coverage and livestock disaster programs.

The nutrition part of the farm bill is around 82%. Title IV of the farm bill provides nutrition assistance for low-income households through programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; Women, Infants, and Children; and the National School Lunch Program.

These programs are in every community. Hunger doesn’t just go away. We need to recognize that it is beyond just young families. Hunger is in our senior communities and our homeless and sheltered individuals. It takes money and people to help and serve those in critical areas. Grants are awarded to nonprofits with specialized staff to personally meet with and give assistance so that these people can get food, clothing and housing.

This farm bill is $1.5 trillion. It is not all for us farmers. I have to explain to many people who visit our farm who wonder if all farmers are getting rich from the government payments. I explain why we need to have the ARC, PLC, DMC and the livestock disaster program when the climate is unpredictable. I explain the thin margins that all farmers deal with and how every year we gamble with our livelihoods. Who knows if we will make it from one year to the next? This is exactly why the farming industry is only 1% that takes this risk to feed the rest of the 99% of the population.

The memory of the pandemic is still fresh in the minds of most visitors. We can candidly discuss the food shortages and the lack of milk, meat and even toilet paper. The past cannot be forgotten because there are many families that are unable to get all that they need. Families’ wages are not able to cover the added cost that inflation has impacted on food, housing and medical costs, etc. Many people who are on assistance work full time but cannot make rent let alone pay for childcare and feed their families.

This is not really a farm bill; it is a food security bill. It needs to be passed with added consideration to the citizens who will be impacted by the delays, including some who may be forced into homelessness this winter and the many waiting for help from their elected officials. 

The farm bill needs to be passed to secure our communities, feed the future of this country and also take care of those who have had better days — those who are facing difficulties with finding and keeping a job due to illness, age or other hardships. All of these people are in the districts that are represented by our lawmakers in Washington, D.C. They are voters, and they are citizens of the United States of America. They are why the farm bill needs to be passed.  

Tina Hinchley, her husband Duane and daughter Anna milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots.  They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin. The Hinchleys have been hosting farm tours for over 25 years.

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