- Farm groups resigned to deep farm program cuts.
- Most expect direct payments will disappear.
- Groups express concern with gaps in revenue assistance programs.
Reece Langley, vice president, government affairs, USA Rice Federation, said the rice industry has several priorities in any new farm legislation.
“We want a bankable safety net,” he said. “Can we take the program to lenders and help secure operating loans? Price protection is critical for rice. We also need to maintain proportional rice baseline funding.”
Langley said any new legislation also should minimize the impact of future payment limits and adjusted gross income levels. “We also want to improve crop insurance coverage.”
The rice industry likes the direct payments included in the 2008 law. “We like the simplicity and the planting flexibility,” he said. The industry would like to see payments directed to planted acreage, rather than base. Paying base has resulted in lost acreage since payments can be made regardless of whether the crop is planted.
Langley also suggested that price support levels should more closely reflect the market price and the cost of production.
Wayne Cleveland, Texas Sorghum Producers, said crop insurance is “the number one thing,” that kept sorghum producers viable during the 2011 drought. “We have to have crop insurance,” he said.
He also noted that the renewable fuel standard (RFS) offers an opportunity to expand the sorghum base. “But we need an insurance program that covers sweet sorghum. That’s not currently available.”
He hopes the energy title included in the last farm law will continue. “That is beneficial to growers and encourages the use of sorghum for ethanol. Protecting the RFS is important for sorghum producers.”
Cleveland said using an Olympic average to adjust program payments could hurt producers who had a year with a zero yield in one of the five years. “That loss drops average yield by 33 percent,” he said.
Jeff Nunley, executive director, South Texas Cotton and Grain Association, said crop insurance is important to South Texas producers. “In 2009, yields in the Coastal Bend were close to zero; crop insurance kept us in business. We could see another 2009, or worse.”
Nunley criticized the Super Committee concept. “The folks in DC should be grown up enough to get the job done themselves,” he said. He’s concerned about the possibility that the Super Committee will design the farm bill. “We have a lot of experts in policy and farm groups,” he said.
Jim Sartwelle III, director of public policy for the Texas Farm Bureau, said the Super Committee could “be the best bet we have. If we had 15 months to discuss it, we might come up with a revenue-based program that most would find something positive in.”
He said farm organizations are more concerned about the folks inside Congress than they are about the general public. He’s also concerned that farm organizations have not “had time to get to know new legislators.”
He said that the Texas Farm Bureau likes the 2008 farm law. “We’d like more money but we know there’s less. Our members are worried about conservation funding. Also, our members have embraced multi-peril crop insurance. It is a significant portion of risk management programs.”
Members of the audience also expressed concerns over revenue-based programs, especially with concentration on shallow loss, which several pointed out could be all of net proceeds from a crop.
“Everything now is working because prices are up,” said Steve Verett, executive vice president, Plains Cotton Growers. “Crop insurance works well. But with just one year of low prices crop insurance will not work. That’s why we’re concerned about moving away from some kind of price protection.”
Some observers also noted that farm organizations and members of the House and Senate ag committees are looking at what they can get through Congress in a period of hard line budget reduction initiatives.
Sartwelle said farmers and ranchers need to hold legislators accountable for votes on the farm bill. “We can’t give them free rides on this issue,” he said.