Prairie Farmer Logo

How agriculture can run the farm bill race

What’s Your Story? The farm bill is still important, but trials and campaigns and more threaten to drown out its drumbeat. Here’s what ag can do about it.

Owen Roberts

June 7, 2024

3 Min Read
Illustration of people talking with colorful speech bubbles
VictoriaBar/Getty Images

Running ahead of the crowded pack vying for public attention will be tough over the coming months. With absolutely every vote expected to be crucial in the race to the White House, Americans will be consumed by people telling what they consider to be important stories.

And that’s why we need to be relentless telling ours.

In May, after former President Donald Trump was found guilty of falsifying business records, we had a taste of the challenge that agriculture — or anyone, for that matter — will face rising above the din. It’s hard to believe, but the feeding frenzy will intensify as the weeks and months march on.

We can’t turn our backs. Sometimes, standing in the shadows and waiting for the smoke to clear is the wise option, like watching to see what kind of success your neighbor has with a new variety before trying it yourself.

This year, though, that’s not an option. Agriculture needs to be in control of its own story or face the prospect of being marginalized or invisible, at a time when it really can’t afford it.

Take the fledgling farm bill, for example. There’s a great story to tell about the bill being central to feeding and fueling the nation, about it helping millions of families. Yet what we mainly hear about are the stops and starts and the painful political process its proponents are encountering.

Related:Europe is desperate to save small farms

Cut through the fray

And how about the projected drop in net farm income? The American Farm Bureau expects farm income to be nearly $40 billion lower this year compared to 2023, down more than 25%. People can’t always empathize with farmers because they don’t share similar experiences. But in this case, they can. They can understand the wallop that comes with having a paycheck cut by a quarter.

But if they don’t hear the story, you can’t expect their support.

The same goes for food prices, one of the public’s biggest concerns. Miraculously, food retailers, manufacturers and processors haven’t put their backs into trying to blame rising food costs on farmers. But it’s only June. Don’t be surprised if attempts are made to score political points this fall by disproportionately pinning food costs on farmers.

The best defense is a good offense. That’s why I like imaginative stories such as IL Corn teaming up with the running shoe manufacturer Saucony to create cushioning on its new Triumph model with renewable corn-based foam, to limit the dependence on plastic. The shoe will be highlighted during the Chicago White Sox “Run Your Sox Off” 5K race on June 22, sponsored by IL Corn, which finishes at Guaranteed Rate Field and will feature a team of farmer-runners among the hundreds of others taking part.

Not all stories will have a headline-grabbing Major League Baseball angle. That’s OK — people want to hear about your own on-farm creativity, about how you’re helping keep prices as low as possible while still making a living, about how you’re staying in the race.

Those are good stories too, and they’ll help farming get at least a bit of the spotlight during the tough times ahead.

Read more about:

Farm Bill

About the Author(s)

Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts teaches agricultural communications and journalism at the University of Illinois.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like