Farm bill expiration creates uncertaintyThe lights are on, the doors are open and the staff is busy at Farm Services Agency for Stutsman County even if there is no farm bill in place. The 2008 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30. No new farm bill has been signed into law leaving the agency without authorization for some future programs.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
The lights are on, the doors are open and the staff is busy at Farm Services Agency for Stutsman County even if there is no farm bill in place. The 2008 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30. No new farm bill has been signed into law leaving the agency without authorization for some future programs.
“This October is the time we make the payments for the 2012 crop year,” said Judy Nohrenberg, director of the agency in Jamestown.
These payments include any direct or countercyclical payments authorized for crops grown in 2012 and covered by the farm bill that just expired.
October is not a time Norhrenberg expects to see farmers in the office. Most are too busy wrapping up harvest and fall work to be concerned with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s paperwork for the next year.
“A little activity in December but most in January,” she said. “But until we see the programs and forms there really won’t be anything we can do to work with the farmer for next season.”
One segment of the farm industry has more immediate concerns about farm legislation.
“Dairy will be among the first parts of the farm sector affected,” said Gary Hoffman, executive director of the North Dakota Dairy Coalition. “The old farm bill had a little protection for dairy. The Senate version had some better protection. The dairy industry is in peril by the lack of action by the House.”
This past summer the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House Agriculture Committee passed different versions of the farm bill. The full House did not take action preventing either version of the bill from proceeding. Both sides of Congress have since recessed until after the election.
The delay comes at a time when the dairy industry is one of the few segments of agriculture not enjoying strong prices, Hoffman said.
“Dairy is in a tough situation right now,” he said. “The big issue is the lack and cost of forage. High-quality alfalfa costs three to four times what it normally costs.”
Dry weather this summer has reduced the yield of alfalfa and other forage crops across much of the Midwest.
Hoffman said the 2008 Farm Bill included the Milk Income Loss Contract Program more commonly known as MILC. The program was based on the price of milk and the costs of feed. However, program regulations often limited the amounts dairy farmers could collect.
“Most farmers weren’t receiving payments,” he said. “The Senate version of the new bill had some safety nets for dairy farmers that would be very useful now.”
The year-round nature of dairy farming also means a lack of a farm bill has an immediate effect, Hoffman said.
“Dairy farmers produce every day and the product leaves the farm every other day,” he said. “You hope you can at least break even but that is not the case at this time.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com