September 16, 2019

2012 Farm Bill Issues

Categories: Farm Bill


Two weeks after the House Agriculture Committee concluded a round of 2012 Farm Bill field hearings, analysis and speculation regarding the next Bill are beginning to emerge.

DTN editor-in-chief Urban C. Lehner indicated at the Editor’s Notebook Blog on Friday that, “With three years left to run on the last farm bill, [House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)] has been holding hearings around the country to prepare for the next. More time will be needed, he says, to produce a bill that’s both less costly and still ‘works for agriculture.’ At a hearing in California, he warned farmers to expect ‘fundamental changes’ in the next farm bill because of ‘budgetary pressures’ and public unhappiness with farm programs.”

After additional examination, Mr. Lehner stated that, “[A]n aphorism closer to home says farm policy only changes when farmers are unhappy and crying for change. The House Ag Committee members who sat through the hearings have heard cries for change, but mostly for more spending, not less: Raise loan rates. Make ACRE county-based. Subsidize fruits and vegetables.

Crop insurance cuts are under discussion, but farm groups oppose them. Payment limitations would be popular with the general public, but Peterson dislikes them, as do many farmers.

Direct payments defy the ‘safety net’ logic underlying farm programs, as they’re paid in good times and bad alike, to absentee landowners in New York as well as those who sow and reap, but many farmers swear by them — and unlike some of our other farm programs, they’re WTO-legal. You could dress them up as compensation for providing public goods like clean air and water, but the chairman doesn’t like that idea, either.

“You could cut conservation programs like CRP, CSP and EQIP and nutrition programs like food stamps and school lunches, but the farm bill can’t pass even in easy years without support from environmental and hunger groups.”

The DTN item concluded by noting that, “But those seeking fundamental change have their work cut out for them. Chagrined as I am by my poor forecasting track record, I will wait for more convincing signs before predicting major changes in farm programs this time.”

Nonetheless, Farm Bill pressure points are beginning to surface. In particular, recent news items have pointed to two general areas: Food Related Issues, and Trade.