The Farm Bill expires today, and Congress will have to pass a new version of the bill to continue food assistance programs and farm subsidies.
The Farm Bill actually has little to do with American farms. Most of the bill addresses the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, and a lot of the attention in the last few weeks has focused on that part of the legislation.
But if Congress passes the most recent rewrite, a huge portion of the Farm Bill’s budget will be eliminated. This would be the money that farmers receive from the federal government every year, regardless of crop turnout.
But farmers are not outraged at losing this money — in fact, they requested it.
Kyle Cline lobbies for the Indiana Farm Bureau in D.C. He asked Congress to get rid of these direct payments on behalf of Indiana’s farmers to give taxpayers a break. He says farmers only want assistance if floods, droughts and other unexpected stresses on crops ruin their revenue.
“That being said, crop insurance is the most important aspect. So we’re hoping with that with those savings that we get from eliminating direct payments, we could reallocate some of that to expanded crop insurance which is more of the risk management tool that our farmers critically need.”
Only providing subsidies when farmers need it will cut a lot of money from the Farm Bill budget. Purdue Agriculture Economist Roman Keeney says it will not affect the average farmer significantly.
The check they’re going to lose is 3 percent of gross income. That’s not insignificant on some of these farms in terms of dollar value, but 3 percent is something that these people are ready to deal with that year to year.
If Congress doesn’t pass a new Farm Bill, it can choose to extend the current one. That has Cline worried. He says with larger issues such as Syria and the debt ceiling dominating the agenda, Congress might put farm issues on the back burner.