Keep hope alive: Farmers optimistic about Farm Bill
“We hope the members of the House of Representatives will dust themselves off and get back to the business of passing a workable farm bill,” noted Wilmer Stoneman III, director of commodity marketing for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, Virginia’s largest farm advocacy group.
“Last Friday’s vote was a setback, but it’s just the first quarter of a very long game. We’re looking now at the Senate to bring us a Farm Bill.”
Farm Bill programs provide critical tools to help farmers and ranchers manage risk. They are written to provide a basic level of risk protection to help offset bad economic times and severe weather. The legislation also supports conservation programs and includes funding for various nutrition assistance programs.
Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said farmers are perplexed by the recent House vote of 213-198 against H. R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018. Farmers are “facing very real financial challenges,” Duvall shared. “The risk management tools of the farm bill are too important, particularly at a time of depressed farm prices. We urge the House to pass H.R. 2 as soon as possible.”
Stoneman added that the sooner a new bill is passed, the better. Commodity prices are the worst they have been since the 1980s, and the downward trend is expected to continue. The $800 billion Farm Bill would help farmers as well as 40 million consumers who receive food assistance under the program.
The current bill was written when farmers were receiving high prices for their products, and it expires in September. Since then, net farm income has plummeted 50 percent, and the programs are not providing the safety net for which they were intended. The dairy programs under the farm bill are proving ineffective.
The 2018 version of the Farm Bill included provisions for dairy farmers and the Agriculture Risk Coverage program, as well as new provisions for cotton farmers. Revisions also included improvements for federal crop insurance and provisions aimed at improving conservation and rural development programs.
This version of the Farm Bill would help farmers and ranchers battered by commodity prices that often do not cover the costs of production, Duvall pointed out. “This is one step to bring certainty to our farmers when we face challenges from many different directions.”