Robert J. Samuelson [“Plow under the farm subsidies” op-ed, Jan. 7] missed the mark in not understanding that farm bills are written not for the good times but for when farmers need help the most. When Mother Nature strikes, such as with last year’s extreme drought, both farmers and consumers feel it. While crop insurance and farm programs help mitigate the economic impact on farmers, an indirect benefit to consumers is a stable food supply. Other farm-bill provisions provide nutrition assistance to those in need.

We cannot solve our nation’s fiscal problems with cuts to farm-program spending alone, which currently represents less than one-half of 1 percent of the total federal budget. But farmers are willing to do their share. Throughout the farm-bill debate last year, agriculture put real cuts and reforms on the table.

The farm sector has performed well during our nation’s economic crisis, in part due to a farm bill that helped manage the weather and market risks associated with farming. Tax dollars spent on one of the most viable sectors of our economy not only provides a safety net for farmers but also protects the viability of the U.S. food supply for all of us.

Bob Stallman, Washington

The writer is president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.