WASHINGTON—In federal farm policy recommendations sent to Congress on Sept. 29, the American Farm Bureau Federation said continuing most current federal farm programs is the best way to ensure a farm safety net that works for all commodities and regions of the country.
"Farm programs have been critical to the survival of our nation’s traditionally family owned farms. Meanwhile, consumers reap the benefits of a top-quality, stable and economical food supply," said AFBF President Bob Stallman.
The AFBF recommendations include maintaining all current commodity programs, though Farm Bureau is willing to consider modifications and adjustments to make them more effective in a reduced-budget environment.
The organization acknowledged that funding reductions will have to be made and recommended spreading them out by making cuts in the areas of commodity programs, conservation and crop insurance funding. Those areas and nutrition programs make up 99 percent of the funding authorized in the current farm bill. AFBF noted that its recommended cuts in nutrition program funding should be made through administrative rather than program benefit cuts.
AFBF farm policy specialist Mary Kay Thatcher said farmers and ranchers support reining in federal spending and realize that farm programs will be cut.
"We want the Congress to know that we believe in doing something about the budget deficit and that we would like to get it far closer to balanced and that we’re willing to do our fair share," Thatcher said.
But at the same time, she said, it’s important for lawmakers to remember the importance of a safety net for those who produce much of the nation’s food.
"All businesses are risky, and it’s tough for small businesses in general but the fact is that agriculture has weather to deal with. And this is a perfect year to think about it. We’ve had floods. We’ve had fires, hurricanes and droughts. You can’t predict those things. Now a vast majority of farmers buy crop insurance, but there’s a need for a further safety net. If you depend on only one program as your safety net, put all the eggs in one basket, that’s not a very good way to go."
It wasn’t so long ago that some people assumed the 2012 Farm Bill would not be finalized until next year. Thatcher said there is about a 50 percent chance it will be ready by Dec. 31, thanks to the push for budget cuts.
"That’s largely because we’re caught in this position of having to recommend changes to the supercommittee that’s trying to come up with $1.2 trillion in cuts by Christmas, and if those cuts that are required of agriculture are great enough, you really have to rewrite farm policy."
Contact Thatcher at 202-406-3661