Among five key principles that will guide the American Farm Bureau Federation’s work on the next farm bill is that the basic funding structure in the current farm bill should not be altered, AFBF President Bob Stallman said in June 30 testimony at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing.
For example, Stallman said, if funding is increased for a particular conservation program, the increase should be offset by spending reductions in other conservation programs so as not to shift funding from other areas, or titles. AFBF took that position during the 2008 farm bill debate, as well, and for the most part succeeded in persuading Congress
not to dilute the commodities title that includes direct and countercyclical farm payments.
The House and Senate Agriculture committees are starting to hold hearings to look at what has worked in the 2008 farm bill and what needs to be improved upon when Congress passes the 2012 farm bill. That’s at least a year off, but writing a farm bill takes longer than it used to. In addition, the committees will have to do more with less money, says Rep.
Jerry Moran (Kan.), ranking Republican on the House committee.
“That is why it is important to start our conversations with producers now, so we can develop the most fiscally responsible and effective safety net possible,” Moran said in a news release following a June 24 hearing by the House Ag Committee.
At that hearing, Philip Nelson, Illinois Farm Bureau president, also outlined Farm Bureau’s five key principles. In addition to maintaining the farm bill’s funding structure, Farm Bureau says the proposals it puts forward will be fiscally responsible, benefit all agricultural sectors, consider world trade obligations and rulings, and provide transition periods to ensure a stable business environment for farmers and ranchers.
One area of the farm bill that stands to be improved upon, Stallman and Nelson said, is overlapping risk management and farm safety programs that still leave too many farmers and ranchers in dire straits when yields or commodity prices collapse.
“While our farmers are generally content with the safety net provided
in the 2008 farm bill, it can sometimes feel like you’re reading the old children’s story ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ when you talk to individual farmers about their experiences with farm programs,” both men testified.
“Some farmers think the safety net coverage provided under the 2008 farm bill is ‘just right.’ But in other cases and for other farmers the coverage is sometimes too little. In a small number of cases, the
coverage may even be duplicative and too much.”
The difference between just right, too little or too much usually depends on a farmer’s region and crops, and Southern farmers seem to have benefitted less than others from 2008 farm bill programs such as the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) and Supplemental Revenue Assurance Payments (SURE) programs.
“The bottom line is that crop insurance and farm programs have morphed significantly over the past 20 years, and these changes have left different farmers with different safety nets,” the two said. They said that 2012
changes should focus on eliminating coverage gaps and redundancies.
Posted by Kaci Switzer