Agweek Editorial Board
Sometimes it's called the food stamps program, sometimes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Whatever you call it, it's expensive and controversial. Now, the Trump administration — hardly a stranger to controversy — has introduced a proposal that would radically overhaul SNAP. Though Trump's "Harvest Box" program has defenders, the proposal has generated huge criticism, some of it from people whose political support is vital to U.S. agriculture. In case you're unfamiliar with SNAP:
That the North Dakota State Board of Agricultural Research and Education decided not to start charging low-population counties more money for extension services can be hailed as a victory for rural areas. Towns that have seen people and businesses move out won't see their extension offices move out, at least not without it being their own decision. The decision could be a victory for extension and research funding as a whole — but only if the users of those services continue to stand up and let their voices be heard.
Agriculturalists have only a few areas of universal agreement. We all like cooperative weather. We all dislike food waste. We all believe that nothing is more important than farm safety. The short list also includes, or should include, strong support for public-sector funding of ag research. So all of us in ag need to be concerned, even alarmed, that U.S. government spending for ag research, adjusted for inflation, continues to decline. As a result, China has surpassed the United States as the global leader in public-sector spending on ag research and development.
Weeds have been a problem since crops were first cultivated. Farmers, on the front lines of the age-old battle, know all too well that weeds are a relentless foe. At Agweek, we've committed much of our time and resources reporting on weeds and weed management to improve agronomic practices across our region.
Last week, the most popular article on agweek.com was the announcement of U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue's rollback of school lunch regulations relating to whole grains, sodium and dairy. We applaud Perdue's quick action to give more flexibility back to states and local school districts to find the best solutions for their schools to feed kids.
The U.S. Senate on April 24 will take up — and is expected to confirm — Sonny Perdue as agriculture secretary. Perdue, a former Georgia governor who has worked as a veterinarian and owned grain and fertilizer businesses, was the last Cabinet member nominated by President Donald Trump. And, as Perdue quipped during his hearing before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, perhaps the president "saved the best for last."
Health care and health insurance are volatile topics. Everyone has an opinion, no one thinks the present system is good enough, but no one seems to have the perfect answer on how to make it better. The issue of health care resonates with people across the region and across the country. Many people in agriculture are self employed. Many ag businesses and rural businesses are small. Many rural communities lack nearby health care. So while the issue of health care tends to be contentious for people nationwide, for those of us in rural areas, it's a top problem.
If you live in the city, no one can walk into your home and use the bathroom. People can't pitch a tent and spend the night in your yard. But the acres owned by farmers and ranchers in North Dakota have no such protections. The agricultural industry in North Dakota, like almost all states, is diverse in its topography, crops and livestock, just as cities are with people, jobs and housing. What works for one type might not work for another type, and differences of opinion are normal.