What is in this article?:
- Pushing that big farm bill rock uphill
- Time rapidly running down
“How many times have we pushed this farm legislation right up to the top, only to see it roll down on us, like Sisyphus pushing that boulder throughout eternity," asks John Anderson, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington. “Right now, there’s a lot of anticipation that we’ll get a bill by the end of the year. But there’s still the nagging question: Will it just roll down again?”
JOHN ANDERSON, second from right, senior economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, visits with Ken Hood, from left, Extension professor of agricultural economics; Steve Turner, head of the Department of Agricultural Economics; and Byron Parman, assistant Extension economics professor, all at Mississippi State University.
Time rapidly running down
The calendar is becoming more an obstacle with each passing day, Anderson says. “Given the government shutdown, the wrangle over the debt limit, and other major issues, let’s face it — the farm bill is not a priority in Washington right now. Dealing with these more-immediate issues will take time, and that’s time we don’t have a lot of in what’s left of this legislative session and the end of the year when permanent law will kick in.”
What are the incentives for getting the farm bill done? “Money is always an incentive,” Anderson says. “But it’s not as big an incentive now as it used to be. Title 1 spending under the Senate bill scores out at only about $3.95 billion per year. Spreading that out across all program crop acres, it comes out to approximately $15 per acre per program crop. Once that was real money, but not now.
“We used to talk about farm program payments being important for a farmer to get financing, and it was a big deal. But it’s not nearly as relevant today. It’s still important — but it’s not the incentive it used to be for most crops.
“The value of crops has gone up dramatically over the past five or six years and the cost of production has gone through the roof, so the level of government support relative to what crops are worth is just not as big an incentive any more.
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“I heard last week of a farmer in Indiana who bid $475 per acre cash rent for crop land and didn’t get it. Is $18 or $20 an acre of corn base going to convince his banker to finance him when he’s paying $475 an acre before he even goes into the field? I don’t think so.”
Another incentive to get the farm bill passed, Anderson says, is the overhanging threat of permanent law that would go into effect Jan. 1 if new legislation isn’t in place. “Nobody wants to see that. Something needs to get done before then. The threat of permanent law is the ultimate hammer to get Congress to quit bickering and get something done that will give us helpful and meaningful farm programs.
“That deadline is coming pretty quickly, and that’s a pretty strong incentive for Congress to act.”