As many of you may know, I’m not much for numbers. I may be allergic to math, and I’m blessed to have worked with editors and copy editors who are the most unique of creatures in this news business — those who actually can do the math.

I write a lot about agriculture telling its story. Stories are words. But two weeks ago, I wrote about the need for agriculture to tell its story in a different way — by being more forthcoming with numbers, with actual numbers that are connected to actual farmers.

We don’t like to talk about numbers, numbers that tell stories, like how much it costs to pay for fuel for a tractor, corn seed to plant, nitrogen fertilizer and cash rent. If you ask about these numbers, farmers won’t say. It’s private, and I understand that.

When a reporter, like me, asks ag groups about the numbers, we’re referred to land-grant universities, such as the University of Illinois and Iowa State University and Purdue University, who put averages together on those things.

They’re good numbers, make no mistake. But they are averages. They take the highest and the lowest numbers, and they add them together and divide. Many farmers may be higher than those numbers, some may be lower.

The problem with averages is that they can be quickly dismissed because people understand how averages are obtained.

We’ve also heard that statistics bore people. But when the statistics are balanced with words, with stories, when they are connected to faces and actual people, they become a lot more interesting and a lot more powerful.

On July 2, the National Farmers Union and 531 other groups from a broad swath of interests sent a letter to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner demanding that he take up a unified farm bill when the House returns to work on July 8.

The GOP-led House has twice failed to pass a farm bill and not only did they fail to pass it, members of Congress seem pretty tight-lipped about their double failures. They’d rather talk about student loan rates and other stuff, any other stuff, than to talk about why the Democratic-led Senate has managed to pass a farm bill twice now, but the GOP-led House just can’t figure it out.

The NFU letter mentioned that farmers and lenders need the assurance and the certainty of a new farm bill. But what is lacking from all the farm bill talk are the numbers — for farmers and farming and agriculture that is.

When it looked like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, perhaps the biggest bone of contention and the thing that’s being blamed for the House failing twice to pass a farm bill, was in danger of undergoing some pretty big cuts, SNAP advocates did the math.

Feeding America is a nationwide organization that administers 200 food banks throughout the country. is their website.

If you go to that website, it’s not tough to find their numbers — and they have a lot of numbers. I clicked on the “Hunger in America” link.

The easy-to-read menu showed me I could click on several links, so let’s click on “Hunger Facts.” Right there, I see “Hunger and Poverty Statistics.”

Numbers jumped out at me, lots of numbers, easy to read, easy to figure out and in context. As a reporter, this is the stuff that stories are made of — easy to access, solid data. Data like this:

* In 2011, 5.1 percent of all U.S. households — 6.1 million households — accessed emergency food from a food pantry one or more times;

* In 2011, 57.2 percent of food-insecure households participated in at least one of the three major federal food assistance programs — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly the Food Stamp Program; the National School Lunch Program; and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; and

* Feeding America provides emergency food assistance to an estimated 37 million low-income people annually, a 46 percent increase from 25 million since Hunger in America 2006.

Are these numbers general? Sure. But also included on the Feeding America site are the results of the “Map the Meal Gap” study, which gives more precise numbers by region.

In addition, efforts such as the SNAP Challenge give numbers. The SNAP Challenge is an effort by the Food Research and Action Center to illustrate how much money, on average, SNAP recipients have to spend on food.

We’re talking averages, I know, but the fact is that presenting numbers that people can relate to can be an effective tool when it’s put in terms people can understand. It’s a specific dollar amount that people can relate to.

They can put themselves in that person’s place spending that amount of money for specific items. It’s not an impossible task for agriculture to do something similar.

If you want non-ag and non-farm people to relate to what it costs you to do business as a farmer, they need to know what it costs you to do business as a farmer. They need to see that you have to write checks for so many thousands of dollars, one for seed, one for fertilizer, one for the equipment payment and some for the cash rent payment, in months when the thought of spring is a long way away.

People who aren’t used to expending anything but gas money to make a living, who have their health insurance and 401(k) payments automatically withdrawn from their checks, as well as their taxes, need to be able to read, in dollars and cents, how much a farmer needs to spend to make a paycheck. They need to be able to see a farm-by-farm illustration or at least on a county by county basis.

What they’re seeing now are farmers hoping for $9 corn and $20 soybeans, driving around in $40,000 pickup trucks and picking corn with $425,000 combines. Those are the numbers that farmers aren’t shy about talking about, but it’s the numbers that happen before the purchase of the truck and the combine that consumers need to see.

In this political environment, agriculture itself is a commodity. It’s a product. Just like your corn and soybeans, your hogs, chickens and cattle, cotton and rice and tomatoes and grapes, in order to be a success, you need to find buyers.

In order to find buyers who are willing to pay for your product — agriculture and support of agriculture through the farm bill — we need to explain what it costs to make your product, and we need to explain it in detail. Just saying “it costs a lot” isn’t acceptable anymore in the information age.

People want to know what things cost to make before they pay good money — in this case, their support for agriculture and the farm bill — for that product.

When non-ag people can put themselves into that number, when they can envision themselves writing that check for seed or cash rent or health insurance or when they can look at their wallet and see the $4.50 a day they’d have to spend as a SNAP recipient, that number has made a powerful statement for your product.