Uncertainty over farm bill concerns farm leadersFarm leaders are anticipating an uncertain future if no new farm bill is passed in the next month.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
Farm leaders are anticipating an uncertain future if no new farm bill is passed in the next month.
“The average farmer is going to have difficulty getting financing going into next spring without the stability of a five-year bill,” said Sen. Kent Conrad during a Thursday visit to North Dakota Farmers Union in Jamestown.
The current farm bill expires at the end of September. It provides funding for agricultural programs as well as nutritional programs such as food stamps.
The uncertainty of the situation also concerns farm leaders in North Dakota.
“It’s the unknown that the bankers don’t like,” said Doyle Johannes, president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau. “It could be rather serious to not know what to expect.”
Johannes said in the absence of a new farm bill, some programs would revert to the regulations in place in the 1940s.
“In reality the programs would be so outdated it would be worthless,” he said.
“(The situation) is not good,” said Elwood “Woody” Barth, president of North Dakota Farmers Union. “No permanent disaster program is the first concern. Livestock losses, conservation programs and other programs are also concerns.”
Barth said the permanent disaster program has become a hot topic due to the current drought.
At least one commonly used farm program will continue.
“The farm bill doesn’t impact crop insurance,” said Doug Hagel, regional manager for the Risk Management Agency in Billings, Mont. The agency administers crop insurance for North and South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.
Hagel said crop insurance is authorized by a separate act and funded by its own appropriations.
“It’s business as usual for us,” he said. “It’s too early to tell if there will be changes for the 2013 crop insurance program.”
The Senate passed its version of a farm bill in June. The bill produces savings of about $23 billion over its five-year life. The legislation ends a number of direct payment programs and limits participation in farm programs to individuals with an adjusted gross income of less than $750,000.
The House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the farm bill in July. It has not been brought to the House floor for action.
“We believe if it goes to a vote in the House, it will pass with a solid majority,” Conrad said. “From there, it will have to go to conference committee and the House and Senate will have to make compromises.”
The House is only in session for eight days during the month of September. Conrad speculates the chances of passing a bill decline as time progresses.
“It does nothing but get harder as budget issues will get increasingly difficult,” he said.
Conrad also noted the farm bill had become a political issue.
“I understand the tea party’s desire to cut the budget,” he said. “The answer is not to cut the Farm Bill.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org