Research would tell us that most people are a few generations removed from the farm. This means that it can be more difficult for us to explain what’s happening out here, just because we’re not talking the same language.
What if that were to change?
Research would also tell us that a vast majority of our society enjoys playing online games, one of which happens to be a farming-based game called, “Farmville.” If you’re reading a blog post, or an email, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of it.
So I’m going to make an attempt to combine the two, so that I can use a little of what I know, and a little of what society can relate to, and see if we can get a basic understanding of what the Farm Bill can accomplish. (Wish me luck.)
Let’s start with the basics of how it should work…in theory (I’ll throw in some of the contingencies later):
In Farmville, you start your game and are given opportunities to earn some coins, so that you can start to play the real game, then you pay to “break ground,” and then pay some more to plant seed. The cost of the seed is in direct correlation to how much you can make, the higher the cost, the higher the return.
Then you water your crop, make sure it’s taken care of, (maybe even check on a neighbors crop), and when the time is right, you harvest, reaping the benefits of your work.
The game follows the basic principles of farming, for the most part. But the game already has a farm bill built into it.
Yes, Farmville does, indeed, have a farm bill.
Look at the set up of the game. You know your costs going in, you know your benefits coming out, you still have risk (you may come to harvest too late), but the risk is minimal if you play by the rules.
Imagine the game without those safety nets? It would look more like this:
You would come back from planting, putting most of your coins into the new crop, then find out that the crop is no longer worth anything. Losing all your coins and having to start from scratch, hoping you could find a way to scrape together enough to begin again.
You may go to help a neighbor and find everything gone, in the blink of an eye…and have no recourse to recoup your losses.
Developers would factor Mother Nature into the game, randomly setting players back at the beginning, where they have a choice to start the game over, or pick a new game to play.
And imagine, just about getting the gist of what was going on, and getting to be somewhat successful in playing the game, just to find out that the rules have been changed, the game has a bug and the developers no longer want to fix it.
Does that sound like a game that would be fun to play? How many complaints would the developers get over the wildly fluctuating rules and obstacles? Would there be anyone left to play at all?
In real life, the farm bill can provide a safety net that allows farmers to keep playing the game…but in this case, the game is keeping our plates full, our backs covered and our vehicles on the road. And it shouldn’t be a game at all.
In real life, the farm bill may not guarantee that every crop is successful, but at least one crop failing wouldn’t kick you out of the game. Instead of paying 6 coins for a crop that should be worth 16 when harvested, you may be guaranteed at least 4 coins if Mother Nature got in the way. Not what you were hoping for, but better than nothing in the end.
No, the real farm bill isn’t a game. And those in Congress shouldn’t treat it as one. They have real work to do and short amount of time to get it done.
Every single one of us has a stake in getting a farm bill passed. Yes, there are places that can be cut from existing programs and ways to save money from a bulging budget…but that doesn’t change the importance of passing safeguards for the people that provide so much, for so many, yet number so few.
They estimate that 80 million people play Farmville. Imagine if just 10 percent would contact their elected officials about the importance of the farm bill?
Perhaps we should give them extra coins for submitting an email?
Please realize that this simplified version comes nowhere near explaining the true complexity of the bill…I realize that as well. But we need to act and we need to think, and I’m not sure our elected officials are doing either of those things very efficiently right now.