Commentary: ‘No’ is not acceptable for farm bill

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Editor's note: The following commentary was written by Gene Hall, Public Relations Director for the Texas Farm Bureau and published on the Texas Agriculture Talks website.

The farm bill should be an easy vote, easily explained back home.

There is not any jobs bill on which Congress could vote that will sustain more jobs than a farm bill. These jobs range from the farm gate to port cities. From truck terminals and railheads to hometown grocery stores, jobs are the legacy of farm bill legislation. There are jobs in urban centers and jobs in small farm towns—jobs dependent on farming.

Add bickering in Washington over a farm bill to the list that scares farmers these days. If you’ve priced a new tractor, or especially a combine, you know you quickly get to six figures. If you lose a crop, you have big trouble. I believe the biggest fear is probably risk. In this drought cycle and persistent rounds of crop-ruining hail, risks in farming are much more daunting than rolling the dice in Vegas.

Congress is set to debate the next farm bill with a deadline of Sept. 30. The budget rancor in Washington is intense and everyone knows that farm spending will be less than before. Farmers have accepted that.

What I hear from Texas farmers is this: “We have to preserve the crop insurance safety net. Without that, another year like 2011 will take almost everyone out of the farming business in Texas and other places.”

Crop insurance is subsidized. That’s because the risk is so great in farming that it’s not feasible for a farmer to pay all of it. Prices fluctuate and premiums are high, reflecting the risk. There is simply no scenario in which a banker would approve an operating loan without some risk protection.

For this reason, a lot of courageous members of Congress vote for a farm bill. No one wants food prices to get as high as they would without one. However, some conservative members, in a foolish scramble to get to the political right of each other, are saying some very un-statesmanlike things, such as, “You know I’m for farmers, but I just can’t vote for all that nutrition spending.”

In recent history, agriculture spending has been disproportionally cut because it’s easy, visible and doesn’t really take much in the way of political courage. Let me be clear. As a member of Congress, you are either for farmers—or not—and if you vote against a reasonable farm bill, you are not for farmers.

You may believe you have been sent to Congress to vote “no” on everything.  This time a “no vote” on a farm bill is not an acceptable answer. In this case, it’s very simple. Vote for a farm bill that works. It’s the right thing to do.

Members of Congress please—farmers are very serious about this. They are looking down the barrel of a gun loaded with risk. They will not give you a free pass. You are either for farmers or you or not.

This time, if you vote against a farm bill, it’s really very simple. You will have to explain back home why you don’t support farmers.

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June, 05, 2013 at 10:23 AM

Disagree! This is a bad farm bill! If it passes it will damage the livestock industry while padding the pockets of crop farmers. There is also way too much spending on food assistance programs. This farm bill reeks of HSUS and their objective of turning us vegetarians. Vote No to this junk bill. Write one that supports providing for ones self, one that doesn't make buying crop insurance a guaranteed profit and one that doesn't force dairy farmers into an insurance program that will only benefit insurance companies and the large milk co-ops.

Batavia, NY  |  June, 05, 2013 at 09:39 PM

NO is the only answer to this farm bill. We do not need the Soviet farm bill here in the USA!

Ohio  |  June, 07, 2013 at 09:35 AM

Well, we must acknowledge Texas seems to be a special case when it comes to crop failures. It is always head and shoulders above every other state in USDA/FSA crop disaster declarations. So the crop insurance program and the FSA emergency loan program are far more valuable to Texans than any other American farmers. Maybe the relevant question is "can we afford to finally let Texas farmers be more responsible for themselves?" and the honest answer is probably "yes!". A "yes" or a "no" vote on the farm bill won't make our budget problems disappear. A good deep cutting of SNAP and the crop insurance programs will be a step in the right direction. In the meantime maybe some of those Texans making their subsidized livings in serial crop disasters might want to diversify into something less dissipative?

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