TV cared about the farm bill about as much as it did Beyoncé—but way less than it did Facebook

A New Food Economy bon-bon.

Here at The New Food Economy, we news mavens are all too aware that the farm bills recently passed in the Senate and House of Representatives have been generating headlines—though, for somewhat different reasons, of course.

(And, yes, we’ve written plenty of our own headlines, too.)

For much of this year, the NFE newsroom has been a flurry of reporting on the bill’s evolution and all of its wider implications: What are people saying on Twitter? Can someone tune into the Senate markup? How do we condense everything that’s going on into 500 words?

We cover the economics and politics of food, so we’ve gotten pretty used to making the case that everyone should care about the farm bill. Trust us, it’s never been an easy sell.

That’s why we found it especially interesting when, in the days leading up to the House’s first vote on May 18, and throughout that day, we saw #farmbill trending on Twitter. Granted, the algorithm knows we’re into it, but the curiosity and chatter seemed bigger than us.

And that got us wondering, is it something about this particular farm bill (SNAP wars, perhaps?), better coverage, more mainstream media interest? So, your correspondent decided to depart the digital world for the … well, larger scale digital world, and see what was going on with farm bill coverage on TV, where a purported 57 percent of American adults get their news.

It seemed to me that, if the farm bill was competing on the big box, then our hunch that it had punctured the digital ceiling might just be legit.

Of course, it’s not super helpful to know how much air time the farm bill got if we don’t have anything to compare it to. I came up with a list of other big 2018 names and headlines so we could see just how much noise the farm bill actually made. These results were pulled from TV news captions available in the archive database.

A graphic comparing TV mentions of the farm bill and other political issues.New Food Economy

Above is a graph of “farm bill” mentions compared to other political news

A graph comparing TV mentions of the farm bill and other cultural issues.New Food Economy

Above is a graph of “farm bill” mentions compared to other cultural news

So were we right that the farm bill has been killing it? Well, think of it this way. In the political landscape, it got more TV coverage than one of the most contentious issues of the moment—SNAP. But it was nowhere near as much of a driver as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). To absolutely no one’s surprise, Harry and Meghan got more air time than the one piece legislation that is responsible for funding 80 percent of America’s food assistance programs. But here’s a little something to ponder for your weekend: Beyoncé was referenced only 50 more times than the farm bill was.

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Jimin Kang is a student at Princeton University, where she writes as a freelance reporter for the University Press Club. She has previously written for Young Post, the youth subsection of Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, and is from South Korea.