Innovation of the Week: Policy Analysis at Your Fingertips

By Ronica Lu

The Farm Bill Budget Visualizer, recently released by the Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is an innovative, web-based application that provides a visually pleasing, interactive breakdown of Farm Bill legislation spending.

A screenshot of the Farm Bill Budget Visualizer’s homepage (Photo Credit: Food and Tech Connect)

The Farm Bill is a comprehensive omnibus bill, first passed in 1973 and updated every four or five years, that deals with food and agricultural affairs under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Farm Bill is the primary food and agricultural policy tool of the U.S. federal government and addresses issues from numerous perspectives—including everything from food assistance and nutrition education, to efforts to improve access to fruits and vegetables.

With the upcoming release of the updated 2012 Farm Bill from Congress later this year, the Budget Visualizer helps the general public, advocacy groups, and policymakers make connections between the provisions of the bill and the amount of federal spending allotted to each program.

The visualizer displays Farm Bill programs in collapsible and expandable boxes. The sizes of the boxes are proportional to the amount of funding the programs receive. The use of the app does not require a software download, but does use the latest versions of Java and Adobe Flash.

By selecting the category, “sustainable agriculture,” one will find that one of the related provisions is the “Sustainable Research and Extension Program.” The visualizer displays a short description of the program and the budget allotted, which includes a 5.2 percent increase in funding from US$19 million to the proposed US$20 million for the 2012 Farm Bill.

Roni Neff, CLF’s research and policy director, says, “Transparency is a key theme and objective of our work; we’ve not only provided our audiences with access to details of the Farm Bill budget, but also provided a new way to understand this complex piece of legislation.”

What have you learned about the issues most important to you from the Farm Bill Visualizer?  Let us know in the comments section below! 

Ronica Lu is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet Project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

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