Farmers at a House Ag Committee field hearing in Arkansas called for a farm bill this year that "benefits all sectors of agriculture and all regions of the country."
House Ag Committee chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., brought one of four national field hearings to Jonesboro, Ark., at the request of U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark.
A panel of 10 producers represented major row crops, livestock and agriculture in the South.
Regional choice dominated the talk among the varied producers.
Randy Veach, president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation, summed it up when he said, "farm programs should take into consideration commodity and regional differences."
Veach continued that "Arkansas agriculture needs a traditional program that provides price protection."
England, Ark., producer L. Dow Brantley told the committee that Congress should reauthorize the farm bill "this year.
"I understand that the budget situation facing this committee is a key consideration in the development of the farm bill," Brantley says. "These budget pressures, coupled with the outcome of the U.S.-Brazil WTO case means some farm policies must be modified to satisfy both budget constraints and specific trade objectives."
Brantley says the new farm bill should maintain the planting flexibility that began in the 1996 farm bill.
He listed three priorities for the committee to consider.
"First, trigger levels for assistance should be updated to account for price declines below cost of production and should include a floor or reference price to protect in multi-year low price scenarios.
Second, as payments would only be made in loss situations, payment limits and means tests for producers should be eliminated, or at a minimum not tightened any further.
Third, federal crop insurance should be improved to provide more effective risk management for all crops in all production regions, beginning with the policy development process."
Veach, the Arkansas Farm Bureau president, pointed out the glaring public perception of direct payments to farmers.
While acknowledging the public perception over direct payments, Veach cautioned the committee to avoid the "overnight elimination of this program and what it would do to the economy of several agricultural states."
Veach cited the elimination of direct payments in Arkansas would cost the economy $243 million. In Iowa, the number would be $473 million; Illinois, $418 million; and Texas, $390 million.