FARM BILL MARKUP PROVISIONS CONCERN FARMERS FEDERATION
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- As the Senate Agriculture Committee began its markup of the 2007 Farm Bill today, the Alabama Farmers Federation said the bill was "moving in the wrong direction" and joined with the American Farm Bureau Federation in expressing serious concern over portions of the plan.
"The bill is moving in the wrong direction," said Keith Gray, director of the Federation's Department of National Affairs. "The bill's provisions that would replace the non-recourse loans essentially eliminate the 'three-legged stool' that the Alabama Farmers Federation and American Farm Bureau have supported throughout the farm bill process. The lack of a recourse loan means that at exactly the time when markets are the weakest, producers would have to find money over and above that from the sale of their crop in order to pay off their loan."
The Farmers Federation also criticized as "extremely prejudicial against some crops" a proposal that would replace the traditional direct payment system with a $15 per acre payment.
"While this plan would generate savings, this savings does not appear destined for other areas of the commodity title and would instead be moved to other titles," Gray said, adding that updating base acres will likely move direct payments from the "green box" to the "amber box" and increase the likelihood of added challenges to American farm program by the World Trade Organization.
"Requiring counter-cyclical payouts first to be used to refund crop insurance indemnities will discourage farmers from buying crop insurance coverage by providing them with no additional incentive for paying a higher premium," Gray said.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, in a letter to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Ag Committee, "strongly urged" the panel not to adopt a farm bill that would increase funds for rural development, nutrition and conservation by reducing funding to the commodity title.
The AFBF also noted that in 2002, Congress committed to spend an annual average of $16.5 billion to fund the commodity title for five years. The current CBO baseline provides an annual average of only $7 billion for the commodity title for the next SIX years.
"Commodity spending has already been reduced by over 50 percent since 2002, while funding for virtually all other titles of the farm bill has increased," wrote AFBF President Bob Stallman. "Unlike nearly all other sectors, agriculture did not request more money for the commodity title in the farm bill. We simply asked that the current funding not be reduced to fund other's priorities, many of whom were already receiving funding increases without any changes in the farm bill. The basic structure of the 2002 farm bill should not be altered."
Gray said the Alabama Farmers Federation, the state's largest general farm organization, is pleased that the committee is moving forward on a farm bill so that farmers and ranchers can make crop plans for the coming year. "We will continue to try to work to improve the bill on the Senate floor," he said. "There's much at stake for those who labor to feed America."