​While we were off enjoying the summer weather, Congress made an unprecedented change to an important piece of agricultural legislation that is now left in limbo during the August hiatus. Breaking from years of tradition, the House separated the food stamps program (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP), which feeds low income families, from the Farm Bill, an omnibus bill that includes a number of agricultural and nutritional programs but is known publically for its controversial subsidies to farms. Why is this so important? It sends the wrong message to the public. When we think of a bill to help farmers, we imagine the family owned farm with a variety of crops and livestock, hard working farm hands and fresh, delicious fruits and veggies. By stripping the nutrition programs from the Farm Bill, we are further disassociating food from farms. In a society where food comes in a cardboard box from a store the size of a city block, the chain of understanding what we are eating and where it is coming from is already cracking and this move is just one more chink in the armor. But let’s back up for a minute. During the Great Depression, Congress passed what has become known as the Farm Bill to assist struggling farmers during hard times and ensure that they are able to provide an adequate food supply to sustain our population. Since that time, it has grown to also include programs that support food safety, agricultural trade, research, conservation, and farm commodity and price support. Typically, a new Farm Bill is passed every 5 years and it always includes the USDA nutrition programs, which include SNAP and school meal programs. Over the years, the Farm Bill has become a political hot potato, used to stir debate about providing subsidies to factory farms and the misuse and high cost of the SNAP program. So it’s no wonder that the controversial and high-priced bill has become another fight on Capitol Hill. The Senate passed the bill earlier in the summer with significant cuts to SNAP funding and after much jockeying in the lower chamber, the House removed the SNAP program all together. Now, from a public policy standpoint, removing the SNAP program from the bill could make sense. After all, the bill contains a number of programs that are not specific to production agriculture so breaking those programs into standalone legislation could lead to more productive debate and discussion about their merits. From a political standpoint, the SNAP program is better protected as part of the omnibus legislation rather than a standalone bill subject to much harsher cuts and debate, hence the hesitation from Democrats to remove it. But my concern is from a public messaging standpoint. So what is the solution? As with all complex problems, the solution is not simple or singular. But we can start with how we communicate. In a country struggling to keep healthcare costs down, the solution of an apple a day to keep the doctor away seems simple, but the message gets lost when we mix jargon and reality. The controversy surrounding the subsidies and SNAP pieces of the bill have made it a political tool to stir debate about government support for large corporations and public funding of welfare programs when in reality, the true intent of the bill is to provide a healthy and adequate food supply. Our society is confused enough when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet and when political maneuvering is involved, it further disassociates food from farms. It becomes just one more nail in the coffin of a healthy American diet. The message is simple. Nutritious food comes from sustainable farms and to forget such a fact leads to an unhealthy population. We would be well served to remember that maintaining health begins not with what we eat, but where it comes from. By Alicia Bandy, Senior Account Executive