Night

Farming isn’t always lucrative, so farm families supplement their income in other ways. The result: Their household income beats the national average.

Taking aim at food stamps

The downturn has driven record numbers onto food stamps. More than 46 million Americans — one in seven — received them last year. The Senate bill would cut funding by $4 billion over a decade. House Republicans want to cut more.

Almost half of all food stamps are spent at supercenters like Walmart. Fewer than two-tenths of one percent are used at farmers’ markets.

Fore!

USDA researchers, funded by the farm bill, have joined with grass seed makers and the United States Golf Association to breed new grasses that resist drought and make smoother putting greens.

Farmville

Rural living can be isolating, so the farm bill includes $194 million over five years for broadband connections, health centers, water systems, and libraries for farming communities.

Let a thousand flowers bloom

Most cut flowers sold in the U.S. are imported from Colombia and Ecuador. To help domestic growers, the farm bill gives block grants to states to spend on research and marketing. North Carolina producers got some of the state’s $1.2 million pot to study how to extend the “vase life” of flowers.

Home on the range

The government wants your next steak to be organic and free range. Over the next 10 years, the Senate bill provides $16.5 billion for the Agriculture Department’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which gives farmers grants and training to grow organic crops and build fences around pastures so cattle can roam.

The same program gives grants to clean up U.S. watersheds, including the Chesapeake Bay, that are polluted by farm runoff.

Short-sheeted

Dream of South America when you pull up the covers tonight. In 2011 the U.S. government made $639 million in direct payments to American cotton farmers to keep prices down. That’s a violation of free-trade agreements, so the U.S. also paid Brazilian cotton farmers $147 million not to retaliate.

The government also pays U.S. textile mills 4¢ a pound to use domestic cotton. That added up to $77 million in 2011.

Averting a kernel panic

Senator John McCain failed to block popcorn growers from receiving subsidized crop insurance, which he said would cost $91 billion over 10 years.

Consolation prize: McCain, along with Senator John Kerry, got the Senate to roll back USDA inspections of catfish, arguing the Food and Drug Administration already does that.

Grow it yourself

The current farm bill includes $10 million a year in grants to promote the locavore movement — including urban vegetable gardens in Miami, farmers’ markets in California, and shared farm plots in Hawaii. The Senate’s bill would increase funding to $20 million a year.

Flacking the farm

The current farm bill provides $200 million a year to promote U.S. agriculture abroad. California winemakers have gotten money to hold tastings in Brussels and Seoul; poultry farmers received funds to host a cooking demonstration with Kazakh chefs. The Senate version of the new bill keeps the money flowing.

Lumber by the mile

Enjoying your deck? The wood may have come from the U.S. Forest Service, funded in part by the farm bill. In 2011 it auctioned off 2.5 billion board-feet of timber to sawmills for $152 million. The wood — enough to build 90,000 average-size houses — came from trees on the 193 million acres of federal land the agency manages.

Countries that got the most U.S. food aid in FY 2010 (in millions of pounds)

Ethiopia 1.56

Sudan .71

Haiti .34

Kenya .33

Pakistan .29

DATA: CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE, CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, NATIONAL CORN GROWERS ASSOCIATION, NATIONAL SOY INK INFORMATION CENTER, INSTITUTE FOR AGRICULTURE AND TRADE POLICY, U.S. FOREST SERVICE, BLOOMBERG DATA

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