ALABAMA FARMERS HIT BY COMMODITY PRICE DISASTER
MONTGOMERY While most of the U.S. economy appears to be doing well, Alabama farmers continue to suffer from low prices, overproduction and weather-related problems, said Jerry Newby, president of the Alabama Farmers Federation. Not only have farm prices failed to keep up with inflation, farmers are suffering from some of the lowest prices in more than a decade, he added.
"Our farmers have been hit with a real disaster, this time in the form of low prices," Newby said. "Most people don't realize the size of this disaster because it wasn't caused by a drought or a hurricane, but the effects can be just as devastating to our farmers. As businessmen, we can't continue to operate at a loss. Right now, prices are so low that even with a good crop, a farmer may not break even."
A strong American dollar, a depressed Asian market and overproduction of some commodities have sent prices plummeting. On top of that, the 1996 Farm Bill removed the safety net that helped stabilize commodity prices for farmers during such dilemmas.
Cotton dropped to 53 cents a pound on Aug. 1, compared to 75 cents 10 years ago. Soybeans are selling for $4.34 a bushel, compared to $6.24 a bushel a decade ago. Corn has fallen from $2.22 a bushel in August 1989, to $2.03. Wheat has dropped from $3.84 a bushel in 1989 to $2.63. Prices for feeder cattle have dropped from 83 cents a pound in 1989, to 77 cents a pound.
If farm prices had increased at the rate of other goods purchased by consumers, today's farmer would receive $1.69 a pound for cotton, $13.90 per bushel of soybeans, $6.47 per bushel of corn, wheat would be $9.52 a bushel and feeder calves would be selling for $1.90 per pound, according to agricultural economists.
"Restoring profitability to farming is the number one goal of this organization and is vital to our state's economy and the economy of the entire country," Newby said. "This organization has reached out to other farm organizations in our state and throughout the country to try to find a solution."
Earlier this year, Newby appointed a Risk Management Committee consisting of farmers throughout Alabama to suggest improvements to the Federal Crop Insurance Program. The committee's suggestions were forwarded to USDA officials who are contemplating new regulations to help stabilize prices and improve crop insurance plans, Newby said. Alabama's congressional delegation also has been supportive of changes to the existing farm bill.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions said he supports several measures to help stabilize the farm economy.
""U.S. farmers are facing a serious economic crisis,"" Sessions said. ""With weak worldwide demand and depressed commodity prices, I plan to support a $6.9 billion dollar disaster relief package that includes a 100 percent increase in AMTA payments, a reinstatement of cotton's Step 2 funding for the life of the Farm Bill, elimination of limitations on marketing loan benefits, and $45 million for the peanut program.""