Timely farm program
WEBSTER DEFINES timely as meaning “occurring or done at a favorable or appropriate time.” The present farm bill is anything but timely for the vast majority of American farmers, especially the small family farmers.
Not only are American farmers challenged by increasing cost of production, overseas issues involving policy and trade, drought and adverse weather, but they also have the challenges of political policymakers who have no comprehension of how to make timely decisions regarding farm policies.
Case-in-point: In the late winter and early spring of 2002 farmers were attempting to make decisions regarding what crops to plant. Since the political powers in charge had not been able to come up with an adequate policy that satisfied everyone concerning the new upcoming farm bill, the American farmer was left dangling.
If a planting seed was left on the shelf like the American farmer was by the nation's lawmakers, there would never be any fruit to harvest in the United States of America.
The American farmers were told to make their planting decisions in accordance with the guidelines of the 1996 farm bill. Since the window of opportunity was narrowing very fast in regard to timely planting issues, all farmers acted accordingly.
Farmers not only had to deal with narrow planting schedules, but also had to push the pencil to try and figure what to plant that would adequately cash flow as the commodity markets had been very volatile for several years and the future of just how involved the government was going to be involved in farming was an unknown factor to the American farmer as well as their financial lending institutions.
It was not until the seeds were in the ground and growing that the politicians finally passed the present farm bill.
They seemed to be quite proud of themselves, but stated that they would leave the fine tuning and interpretation to those folks down the chain of command.
It was not until October 2002 that the present farm bill was presented to the American farmers through their local FSA offices.
It was in these meetings that the American farmer was informed that the present farm bill would be retroactive through 2002.
This is to say that the farm bill will be retroactive to cover the crops already planted and harvested for 2002.
Now, we are to the point in this letter where we can try to communicate how the politicians who have no concept of farming can really mess things up for the American farmers.
Since our part of the southwest panhandle of Nebraska has a very short growing season, we are limited in what we can raise.
Attempting to obtain a positive cash flow position, we elected to plant pinto beans instead of feed corn.
Pinto beans are considered FAVs according to the USDA guidelines.
We contacted our local FSA office to determine just how many acres we could plant without violating the government program guidelines. At this point in time the local FSA offices as well as the American farmers had been instructed to continue operating under guidelines of the 1996 farm bill and we planted accordingly.
We overplanted our pinto beans by 9.5 acres, which is equivalent to repaying USDA $133. This is what we certified to in the first signup for 2002.
In December 2002 we were again instructed to sign up our farm for the 2002 farm program. This occurred at the same time we provided information to increase our base and yield figures. We were also signing up for the 2003 farm program.
Needless to say, this was a rather hectic time for both the American farmers and the local FSA offices. A lot of information to generate in a very short time.
Consequently, we did increase our base and yield, but did not realize what a drastic difference it would make in the crop that we had already raised and harvested for 2002. Our overplanted FAV acres rose from 9.5 acres to 210.1 acres, and the amount that we would have to repay the USDA went from $133 to $5,445. Quite a jump, don't you think?
Should the American farmer be penalized because those in political power delayed the timely passing of the new farm bill for reasons known mainly among the politicians?
Yes, we did receive an updated direct payment for 2002, but we did not get any LDPs or disaster payments. Yes, the disaster has been approved for our area for 2001 and 2002, but once again this has been buried in political quagmire and will not be received by the American farmer in a timely manner.
More on Tweeten
MY SON and I farm 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans and milo in northeast Missouri. The article (discussing) Luther Tweeten's views on agriculture subsidies (“Ag economist slams farm programs,” Delta Farm Press, April 4, 2003) was interesting. It's also interesting that he is retired — (Tweeten) will receive a check from the taxpayers every month for the rest of his life for doing absolutely nothing. He has lived his whole career being supported by the taxpayers at a social institution (public education) and now says farmers shouldn't receive any assistance? But he gets a check for doing nothing.
Dale A. Goers