‘Farm bill can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be’

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Farmers attending the farm bill education meetings held by commodity organizations such as the USA Rice Federation and the National Cotton Council have come away with a head full of information about changes in direct payments, revenue and price insurance coverage and base reallocations.

But they also may have been struck by the increased flexibility and improved opportunities for reducing risk in their farming operations, according to speakers at the sessions which began in South Texas at the end of February and continued almost to the end of March across the Cotton and Rice Belts.

“This farm bill some have described as one of the more complex farm bills,” said the USA Rice Federation’s Reece Langley, “but, at the same time, it provides a lot of flexibility and opportunities for growers, and that’s something we and other groups pushed for in the development of this farm bill – to give growers choices and options so they can best fit the safety net to their farms and risks they face.

“We think this bill does a good job of doing that, but as a part of that it can make it complicated. At the same time, there is the opportunity for growers to elect one particular program for all their crops and not have to make any further decisions. I’ve heard it described that you can make this farm bill as complex or as simple as you want to make it based on the choices you want to make.”

Langley, vice president for government affairs for USA Rice, was interviewed following a presentation at a farm bill meeting jointly conducted by the National Cotton Council and USA Rice in Clarksdale, Miss., on March 19.

He said USA Rice and Cotton Council officials believe many growers will benefit from the comprehensive decision aid tools now being developed by the land-grant universities.

“One that we understand will be very comprehensive in that it will not only show your options under the new commodity programs but will also couple with that all of the options you have going forward with crop insurance is being put together by Texas A&M University’s Ag and Food Policy Center,” he said.

“We look forward to that being made available, and we will help publicize it and let growers know where they can access it to use on their farm. We think that will be the best way to get a complete picture of the various options you need to consider and which one may be the best option for you under this farm bill.”

Many growers may find it unsettling to not be faced with a sign-up for the new farm bill this spring, according to Langley and the National Cotton Council’s Mark Lange, one of the other speakers at the meeting in Clarksdale.

“We’ve tried to stress to growers and landlords as well as lenders to help them understand that none of the decisions that are made this year as far as what crops to plant or how much in any way impacts or limits the decisions they can make late this year or early in 2015 when they sign up for the new farm bill,” said Langley.

“That’s the reassurance we’re trying to give growers; that there’s nothing they can do this year that is somehow going to penalize them or restrict their options when they enroll on the new five-year farm legislation.”

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