What is in this article?:
- The new farm bill: a Louisiana perspective
- Rice, sugar, conservation
- Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu and Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, hold press call to explain importance of farm bill for their state.
- Play up growth of exports and key agricultural industries.
- Talk about rice and peanut components of Senate farm bill and why they're now acceptable to the South.
Rice, sugar, conservation
Strain played up the sugar program. “Sugar is (worth) over $3 billion for our state, now, and $1.1 billion directly for our farmers. It’s important to keep the sugar – a literally no-cost -- program in place. Other countries, specifically Brazil, massively subsidize their sugar program.”
More on the sugar program here.
What about rice?
“The program we have in place dealing with adverse market payments and setting a floor of $13.30 is critical. Rice, is worth almost $400 million in our economy.”
Strain said that the original farm bill was passed when the great Dust Bowl was being dealt with. “Here we are at a time when we’re under pressures to have a cleaner environment and to deal with run-off. That can only be done with conservation. Conservation programs are cost-sharing and beneficial.
“We’ll be working in multiple states to develop a nationwide voluntary, nutrient management program. We can work with EPA and do it on a voluntary, cost-share basis versus penalties and mandates.”
U.S. agriculture interests export “40 to 50 percent of the world’s corn, 35 percent of the world’s soybeans, and 15 percent of the world’s protein.”
One Strain concern: the average age of a U.S. farmer is nearly 60 years of age. “The farm bill is important because it helps the new and beginning farmers.”
Queried on why the current Senate farm bill is better than the 2012 version, Landrieu said the short answer is “this Senate version is much more advantageous to rice and peanuts and now has the support of the Southern agriculture alliance. That’s why I strongly support the bill.”
Strain brought up regional issues. “The previous version was disproportionately unfair to Southern crops – specifically, rice and peanuts. The initial discussion was that the money that was no longer available for direct payments would be invested into a more affordable and crop insurance.”
When looking at how crop insurance has been done in the past, “our premiums were much higher than in other areas of the country and actually paid out less,” said Strain. “So, the overall discussion was it would be made much more fair and equitable. But the (2012) Senate version wasn’t fair to rice in that respect, nor to peanuts.”
The current Senate farm bill is better because of “the availability of different types of crop insurance programs, basic revisions and revenue protection,” said Strain. “Also, we now have a base price for rice of $13.30 per hundredweight.”