What is in this article?:
- 2012 farm bill may bring even deeper cuts for agriculture than in 2011
- Penalized for success
- Changes in roster of friends
“In my 37 years with Delta Council, the fiscal outlook for writing a farm bill is about as bleak as I’ve ever seen for southern agriculture," says Chip Morgan, executive vice president of the Delta Council. As bad as fiscal 2011 federal budget cuts were, 2012 could be even worse — “cuts will be much deeper under all the proposals we’ve seen,” he says.
Changes in roster of friends
Last November’s mid-term election brought major changes in agriculture’s roster of friends in Congress, he says.
“A lot of new members came to Washington with just one message from their voters: reduce the cost of government.
“The huge gains by Republicans in the House took its toll on many of the Blue Dog Coalition, mostly Southern Democrats who were friends of farm programs. However, many of the new members are also good friends and have helped us on farm issues.
“We lost nine members on the House committee, seven of those from cotton districts. There are now no Democrats on the Senate Agriculture Committee from a cotton or rice state. As we move forward with the farm bill process, we’re working with the new members who recognize the importance of agriculture to the nation.
“This may be the first time in my memory that there is an effort to determine if a crop-specific farm policy would be better than everyone being covered by the same policy. That’s a pretty foreign concept to most of us.”
The Brazil cotton case — and what will have to be done to carry out the terms of that agreement — will also have to be factored into the new farm bill, Morgan says.
Also, the SURE program is not funded for 2012. “SURE costs about three times as much as direct payments, and in the Mid-South it has had very low participation.”
Morgan and Bowen Flowers, Delta Council president, were in Washington during the period when there was major flooding along the Mississippi River.
“There was a lot of interest in the flood, but there was very little interest in drafting disaster legislation,” Morgan says. “And that’s pretty much the current attitude about the 2012 farm bill, — not many of our friends can figure out how to write a farm bill with drastic reductions in funding allocations.
“The bottom line is that we need to try and impress on the people in Washington that agricultural market prices have not reached some new plateau that has a floor under it, that commodity prices will not always remain at current levels, and that all farm programs should not be thrown away.”