Will the next farm bill cause civil war in rural America?

The first hearings of the 2012 farm legislation were held last week, and as expected, they revealed the Barack Obama administration wishes to take money from farm programs and move it to other priorities. The Secretary of Agriculture pressed the issue with farm-state lawmakers by suggesting rural communities need more jobs and rural economic development funding should increase. That difference in priorities may set up a conflict in which direct farm payments are pitted against rural development with all casualties inflicted on the same people. I can trace the rural jobs philosophy back to Bill Clinton in the 1990s. During a news call with farm reporters he stated, “Farmers need jobs!” This was a shocking but accurate statement, as very few farm families drew all their income from the farming or ranching operation. It was still distasteful to think that a million-dollar investment would not provide enough income for a family to live and that one or both spouses had to find a place off the farm to work so they may have regular income and insurance.