Those of us that are of a certain age carry vivid memories of the personal struggles encountered by family farms during the 1980s agricultural crisis.
I was a journalism greenhorn at my first job — a small daily newspaper in northern Michigan — when my family tried to work their way out of extreme financial stress. They did battle by doubling the size of their milking herd in maxed-out facilities and working 15- to18-hour days to do livestock chores and fieldwork.
My brother’s wife was a town gal, a strong young woman who did her best to be a helpful farm spouse. Sometimes her words and actions upset the “this-is-how-we-do-things-on-the-farm” philosophy. Yet, her heart was always in the right place.
Especially when it came to caring for her young family.
Desperate with meager amounts of cash, she applied for food stamps to supplement the food budget to purchase groceries. She was not ashamed to seek help when she needed it.
There is something wrong with our pricing and market structure when farm families have such low incomes that they qualify for government food assistance programs.
We have been at that point for some time. Recall that back in March, University of Minnesota ag economists released data showing that median farm income for 2018 was around $26,000 — the lowest level in more than two decades.
The 2019 poverty guideline level set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a household of four is an annual income of $25,750.
To qualify for SNAP — the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — a family’s gross monthly income must be at or below 130% of the poverty line.
According to Second Harvest Heartland, a Twin Cities-based food bank, rural hunger makes up 50% of the population that routinely misses meals.
With the trade wars going on, farm businesses can get federal government assistance through the Market Facilitation Program.
In lean income years, farm families can stretch their food budget dollars by applying for federal food assistance.
You can learn more about SNAP online.