On the eve of federal budget cuts through sequestration, commodity leaders continue to express outrage over the absence of a new farm bill.
Leaders from the American Soybean Association and National Corn Growers Association met this week to discuss farm policy and other priorities at the 2013 Commodity Classic, held in Kissimmee, Fla. The event broke last year's attendance record as 6,080 farmers donned short sleeve shirts to enjoy the sunshine and palm trees.
But the mood inside the Gaylord Palms Resort Convention Center was anything but warm, as leaders expressed frustration with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The farm bill "has been a top priority for ASA for longer than any of us would like…because this is the third year we've addressed the need for a new farm bill in this press conference," says ASA president Danny Murphy, who farms near Canton, Miss. "The process has dragged on for far too long and it's time for Congress to get moving on a long term solution that works for farmers."
Congress passed a one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill before adjourning in January, but leaders from both ASA and NCGA say that's not good enough.
"That's not what we wanted to see," says Pam Johnson, NCGA president and farmer from Floyd, Iowa. "We are pushing for a five year, comprehensive farm bill."
The extension "doesn't provide our farmers the certainty we need to make long range decisions," adds Murphy. "That's why ASA will continue to press the 113th Congress for a long term solution—either a comprehensive five year bill, or a modified, multi-year extension—that achieves each of our key farm bill priorities."
One of those priorities, adds Murphy, is a program that gives farmers the greatest possible planting flexibility while helping them manage risk. "The policy of allowing producers to respond to market signals rather than to prospective payments under government programs has been a cornerstone of the last three farm bills, and enabled us to plant an additional 15 million acres (of soybeans) between 1995 and 2010," he says. "We can't lose that progress."
Both ASA and NCGA view the federally subsidized crop insurance program as the risk management tool most in need of defense on Capitol Hill – and the 2012 drought showed why. "We've farmed 40 years and now we're at the point where we have the most effective risk management program ever with crop insurance," says Johnson. "Despite a historic 50-year drought last year, we didn't have anyone clamoring for an ad hoc disaster bill. It has been the will of those doing strategic planning in Washington, D.C. to turn that over to crop insurance, instead of what it used to be.
"We keep working at trying to explain this to our legislators -- why this is good for them, not just for us as farmers but also consumers. We need to do a better job of that."
-Both groups also ticked off a laundry list of other priorities, including:
-Support for Conservation Reserve Program and conservation programs for working lands;
-Reauthorization and funding of the Biodiesel Fuel Education and Biobased Market Programs;
-Further funding for agricultural research;
-Continued support for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and E15 blended fuel;
Reauthorization of the Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program and the Market Access Program funded at $34.5 million and $200 million, respectively.