Eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture learned at a recent farm bill field hearing in Lubbock, Texas, what Southwest farmers and ranchers think of the ACRE and SURE programs created in the 2008 farm law.
Complex and confusing
David Cleavinger, speaking for the Texas Wheat Producers Association, said ACRE is “complex and confusing. The complexity and paperwork involved with the program should be reduced and payments made to producers in a more timely manner.”
“For good reason, the ACRE program has not been well received in Texas,” said Billy Bob Brown, speaking for the Texas Farm Bureau. “Program provisions are simply too complicated and the reduction in program benefits are too great for many Texas producers to participate. The inability to opt out of the program in later years has also been criticized.”
ACRE has little appeal for rice producers, said L.G. Raun, an El Campo, Texas, rice farmer. “Only 8 rice farmers, representing less than 900 acres were enrolled in the program nationwide,” he said.
Ronnie Holt, a Muleshoe, Texas, cotton, corn and grain farmer and chairman of the Crop Insurance Professionals Association (CIPA), said ACRE comes with too big a gamble for “some of us here in the Bible Belt,” who “have a problem with gambling, especially with taxpayer money. But the whole concept seems wrong to me.”
He says inconsistencies in the program mean a farmer could suffer disastrous loss and get nothing from the program or make a good crop and still get paid. “Our farmers cannot afford to gamble like that.”
He said a potential fix being considered that would put the wager at the county or national level “is still not ideal,” especially at the county level. He prefers a program similar to one Representative Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, has introduced, “which essentially allows producers to buy coverage—GRP or GRIP—as a wrap-around policy on top of coverage individualized to a (specific) farm.”
He said that kind of coverage could help farmers who are hit by a widespread weather event.
Panelists also expressed concern over the whole farm revenue disaster program—SURE. “The experience thus far with SURE indicates that it cannot provide an effective level of assistance without modification,” said Heffington.
He said the programs needs more funding, unlikely without an increase in baseline spending authority. “We do not support reallocating limited, existing spending authority from current farm programs to fix its shortcomings,” he said.
“SURE does not have a good reputation in Texas,” Vaughan said. “It has been very slow in providing relief for some producers, with many still waiting.”
He said Farm Service Agency (FSA) personnel are often working without usable computer programs, necessitating that they do computations by hand.