WASHINGTON, D.C. – Autumn in farm country brings with it the roar of combines lumbering across America’s farm fields. It’s harvest season and across the land, farmers are hard at work bringing in the bounty of what, in many areas, amounts to a “pretty good year.” The farm policy landscape, on the other hand, has yielded little, thanks to the frosty bite of American politics.
Because of congressional inability to reach a consensus, the nation’s farm bill has expired – an occurrence that might have been lost in the hubbub of the larger government shutdown. This is not the first sign of farm bill trouble. It would have expired a year ago had Congress not simply extended it for another year due to disagreements and partisan paralysis.
Gone with the farm bill is the basic, no-frills safety net for farm families. Gone is the publicly recognized good of government-backed food security for our nation. Gone is the direct link between the people who farm and those Americans who feel the daily pang of hunger.
Two heartland farmers we spoke with were disappointed, even gloomy about these losses. Glen Brunkow shared that feeling as he steered his combine into the afternoon sun on his farm in Pottawatomie County, Kan.
“I am very, very disappointed that Congress would play political football with something that is as important as our nation’s farm bill,” Brunkow said. “Crop insurance as a safety net is important to me and most other farmers I know. Without crop insurance, and the promise of crop insurance, farmers cannot secure the operating loans they need to make it through another year.”
Brunkow said without incentives included in the farm bill to purchase crop insurance, the product simply is not affordable for most farmers. He said the difference is $40 to $50 an acre.
“I just can’t imagine going through a crop year without having a safety net,” Brunkow said. “We had adequate rainfall this year, but not enough rainfall to restore soil moisture. We are just one dry spell away from being in another drought and I cannot imagine going into that not knowing that I have crop insurance to help at least pay my fixed costs back.
“We are not talking about making a profit off of crop insurance. We are talking about just paying our fixed costs – our land costs, our seed, our fertilizer, our fuel costs, just enough to make it so we can carry on into another year.”