In a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a group of eight prominent agricultural associations voiced its support for the Senate's approach to the 2012 Farm Bill, and raised several issues related to commodity and risk management programs.
Co-signed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Sunflower Association, U.S. Canola Association and USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, the letter commended the committee for adhering to its original proposal of $23 billion in deficit reduction, brought forth to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction last fall. Additionally, the groups applauded the Committee's decision not to restructure the federal crop insurance program or to reduce its funding for deficit reduction purposes.
"Even with the clear and real need to reduce our federal deficit, it remains in the best interest of our nation to help ensure a basic level of risk management for farmers and our food supply," said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. "Farming is a risky business. There is no doubt about that, and crop insurance is a key principle in the goal to provide farmers a dependable safety net."
"Crop insurance," stated the groups, "is the core risk management tool used by our producers, and the current program should serve as the foundation for providing additional protection against loss."
In response to concerns from other commodity groups about a revenue-based approach, the groups advocate making changes in the crop insurance program to enhance its viability as a risk management tool, while maintaining the effectiveness of the existing program for other commodities. The groups do not, however, support program alternatives that tie current-year production to fixed price supports, which can distort planting decisions and production between commodities when market prices decline.
"NCGA strongly believes a farmer should be able to absorb a price or yield loss in any given year," said NCGA President Garry Niemeyer, a corn grower from Auburn, Ill. "However, we are trying to protect farmers, especially young farmers, when they are facing these types of losses multiple years in a row."
In addition to crop insurance, the groups advocated heavily for planting flexibility for farmers. "Our top policy priority for Title 1 in the 2012 Farm Bill is to maintain full planting flexibility and avoid potential planting distortions, so producers are encouraged to follow market signals rather than making planting decisions in anticipation of receiving payments under government programs," stated the groups. "With the anticipated elimination of direct payments and possible restructuring or elimination of the counter-cyclical program, it is imperative that any alternative program included in the next farm bill be structured in a manner to not distort planting decisions and to provide full planting flexibility."