The top priority of any farm legislation must be maintaining an adequate income level from crop and livestock enterprises, says Abner Womack, Texas A&M agricultural economist.

Womack, during at the Texas Commodity Symposium, held in conjunction with the Amarillo Farm Show recently, said national agricultural policy also should:

  • Assure an adequate food supply at a reasonable price.

  • Include competitive trade policies.

  • Maintain adequate commodity reserves in case production problems occur.

  • Exert enough control over imports to maintain viable support industries for U.S. agriculture.

  • Develop rural areas.

  • And do it all while watching government expenditures.

As Congress continues to wrestle with ag policy, Womack said, it's encouraging to see “most farm organizations on the same page. Most want to keep AMTA payments and most want to maintain the market loan and counter-cyclical payments. Not many support supply management, but the Farmers' Union leans that way.”

Womack said a big question is how much money needs to be “on the table when agriculture gets in trouble. Without adequate funding, when hard times hit, the program will not touch enough farmers.”

Womack said with bills under consideration “there is still a lot of risk on the table. None of the proposals will bail out all farmers. but it gives them a better chance.”

He said policies under consideration “are not price movers and do not enhance commodity prices.”

He said the counter-cyclical proposal would base payments on national crop yields. “If the nation produces a good crop but an individual does not, he could be in trouble. Farmers still need insurance.”

Womack also expressed concern over reserves. “There are no reserves included in these bills,” he said. “It may take two crop years to build stocks up or down, but farmers and livestock producers will need to pay attention to reserves.

rsmith@primediabusiness.com