There will be a farm bill with a safety net, but with bigger holes in it in the past.
The ACRE program needs redesigned. The decoupled fixed payment will be hard to preserve. We will keep the direct fixed payment in the 2012 farm bill, but it will be scaled down 10 percent.
Beyond next year’s farm bill, mechanisms inherent to the farm program will undergo quite a bit of change, namely the target for program payments. With the Obama administration so against revenue, that’s out. Price has typically been the target for payments, though maybe not always rightfully so. If the price exceeds the target, there’s no payment. If the opposite happens, we make a crop and have lower prices, but you get a payment.
I will argue that now is not the time to eliminate the farm safety net. The mantra in Washington DC right now is cut, cut, cut, cut. We’ve already seen a two-thirds cut in the farm program. If every sector in Washington did that, we would have a real problem trying to figure out what to do with this surplus we would have on our hands. This administration has very little support in farm country and has very little influence on this farm bill.
There’s a cultural war going on — some are trying to start a fight and undo progress between the small, organic niche farmer and commercial farmer. This is just plain dumb. It isn’t either or. When Barack Obama appointed [Tom] Vilsack [as Secretary of Agriculture], he said the small farmers can feed your community, but only the large farmers can feed the world. I suggest they revisit that statement. A world with full bellies will have little terrorism in it. You have to be bullish on that. If you are opposed to biotechnology, you are in favor of starvation and that’s immoral! We must base biotechnology policy on sound science, not politics like it is being done now.
Excerpted from a speech by Kansas State University Ag Economist Barry Flinchbaugh in late January at the Iowa Land Investment Expo, a meeting of farm real estate agents and farm managers on the current state of the farm bill and Washington politics. He will be speaking at the IBA Ag Bankers Conference, March 20-22 in Ames.