Why Iowa Needs A Farm Bill Now

Iowa Farm Scene

Iowa leaders remain hopeful Congress will pass a new farm bill before end of the year.

Published on: November 11, 2013

Farm Bill affects how farmers operate, how nutrition programs are delivered and much more

Craig Hill, president of Iowa Farm Bureau, says January 1, 2014 is a key deadline to keep in mind. "Even though we aren't falling off a cliff today in the absence of a farm bill, we will January 1," says Hill. "The permanent legislation passed in 1938 and 1949 provides for parity pricing. The permanent Farm Act is amended each time a new farm bill is written. The permanent legislation will become effective on January 1 if we don't get a new farm bill. The permanent law if allowed to kick-in would have some effects that will not be desirable by anyone including farmers. Congress needs to take action before January 1 and pass a new bill. We hope it's a new 5-year bill, a reformed bill relevant for today and not another extension of the 2008 farm bill."

Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, notes there is some agreement between the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill. A joint committee of House and Senate members is now considering each version and is working to come up with a final bill to send to President Obama's desk to be signed into law.

One of the points of agreement is that direct payments to farmers are going to be a thing of the past. How will stopping direct payments to farmers affect the farm economy, which has been one of the more robust parts of Iowa's economy in recent years?

It's agreed that direct payments will be gone; but Congress still has to reach agreement on food stamp spending

"Good prices and good production have allowed Iowa agriculture to really grow," says Northey. "Ten years ago Iowa had a $12 billion ag economy that's grown to $30 billion today. Direct payments from USDA are real, about a billion dollars a year in Iowa. Taking those payments away is small compared to the economic progress Iowa has made over the last 10 years in agriculture. That's why all the ag folks are supporting elimination of direct payments at a time when we have decent prices. Granted, prices are now down 40% from last year's record highs. But it makes sense to cut direct payments even though it'll be a real hit."