Maybe you are one of those non-farmers who have been hearing and reading about the Farm Bill in the news. Do you understand what the Farm Bill is? Would you like to know more? Read on …
The Farm Bill is a piece of legislation edited and passed by Congress and the President every five years. Sometime the process takes longer – there have been years where we extend the current Farm Bill and pass new legislation after six years – but the intent is always to review the bill every five.
Within the Farm Bill there are different “titles.” You could think of them as chapters or sections of the bill. The Conservation Title contains legislation related to conservation programs, the Commodity Title contains legislation related to farm commodities, and the Nutrition Title contains legislation related to food stamps. Other titles are: Trade, Rural Development, Energy, and Research.
Which brings me to point number one: The Farm Bill is not just about farm programs.
Yes, the Commodity Title (including counter-cyclical payments, direct payments, etc) gets a lot of attention every few years when we debate a new Farm Bill, but the Commodity Title is NOT the bulk of the bill.
The meat of the Farm Bill is nutrition programs. So when we want to cut the cost of the Farm Bill and we want to cut only farm programs like direct payments and crop insurance, we don’t really make a huge dent or enact large amounts of savings.
Point number two: When our legislators don’t actually pass a bill and instead, extend a bill into a future year, farmers are left with tons of uncertainty as to what they actually have to work with.
This would be similar to playing a game with a child that makes up the rules as he/she goes along. Except, farmers are playing a game with their livelihood and family heritage without having a clue what rules the government is going to set up! It is not a smart business decision for a farmer to put a crop into the ground without first knowing what laws the government will enact regarding that crop. However, farmers have one opportunity to plant, in late March to early May next year, and they will have to plant even if the government has extended the bill and not defined the programs.
Illinois farmers continue to advocate for a Farm Bill Now. We certainly know what we want that Farm Bill to look like, but we are also willing to place a priority on certain areas and let others go in order to get something passed. Farmers have nearly voluntarily let go of many of their payments to get a Farm Bill passed now that includes good crop insurance options. Now we wait for some of the other programs to allow their own cuts to come up with a total Farm Bill budget that works within our current Federal spending allocations.
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator