Like everyone else involved in the Ag industry, I was starting to wonder if our politicians were ever going to work on a new Farm Bill. However, it seems like we have finally gotten our answer, and it looks like our Senators and Representatives are now serious about getting a Farm Bill passed after letting the previous Farm Bill expire, which led to an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill.
When we hear the word “Farm Bill”, a lot of the time people will think that it is a bill that is just for farmers and the farming community. While the first Farm Bill may have started off that way, it has transpired into a much broader bill that now includes nutrition, trade, commodities, conservation, and more. Because the Farm Bill includes so many different things these days, it makes it much more complicated to get a Farm Bill passed that addresses the issues that our country currently faces. In 2012, over 80% of the Farm Bill spending went to nutrition while the rest of the Farm Bill spending went towards the agriculture industry and rural America.
So then what should a new Farm Bill look like? Well that is a tough question to answer and it actually depends on who you talk to. Some might say that a new Farm Bill will not make any cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and will reform how farmers are assisted when disasters strike. Another person might say that the SNAP portion of the Farm Bill needs to be reformed and the farmer assistance programs left alone. Like I said before, it just depends on who a person talks to and what they believe in. The way it sounds, the next Farm Bill will definitely have cuts made to different programs, however, at this point no one knows how big those cuts could be.
While I could go on and on about the Farm Bill and what could be cut and what might not be cut, one of the biggest concerns for me in the next Farm Bill will be how our Senators and Representatives handle crop insurance. Crop insurance has become one of the greatest risk management tools for farmers, and can provide assurance that when a farmer has a bad growing year; they can still keep their family farm going and hopefully be able to recover in the following year. The best example of this so far is the drought of 2012. Even though there was a large crop insurance payout in 2012, it should be remembered that this isn’t a year to year thing and the reason for such a large payout was due to the drought in 2012 that devastated America’s crops. Another key point that should be remembered is that due to the crop insurance program, there was no need for a disaster assistance bill, something that could have cost more than what crop insurance paid out in 2012. Also, farmers aren’t getting crop insurance for free. They have to pay a share of the premium as well, and buying crop insurance doesn’t mean they will get a payout every year. It will only be in the years where they struggled to get a crop grown.
As I mentioned before, I could go on and on about a Farm Bill and what could be in it and what might not be in it. But at the same time there is already plenty of that going around. However, I encourage everyone to let their Senator and Representative know the importance of a Farm Bill! A Farm Bill is a bill for jobs, food, feed, energy, fiber, and can be a powerful economic engine for Rural America! A Farm Bill is what can lead to a bright future for not only the agriculture industry, but also our nation!