Discussion of a new farm bill has begun in Washington and although the nation’s budget deficit will play a major factor in what the final legislation looks like, it’s not the only challenge faced by agricultural producers who hope to preserve some kind of safety net for the industry.
“How do we make a safety net with less money and less people in Washington who understand why we do what we do with production agriculture?”
Joe Outlaw is an Economist with Texas Agrilife Extension, but he spends a lot of time in Washington.
“When I first started twenty some-odd years ago, if you wanted to have a meeting with people who knew a lot about ag, and a lot about the safety net programs we have, it would be twenty to thirty, and now it would be easily less than ten. The population shift has changed, redistricting, you have less agriculturally based members, but then even within people who come from agricultural regions, less of them are tied to the land than ever before.”
Farm programs have evolved over time.
“It’s very difficult, if you’re not familiar with production agriculture, to go in there and make any sense out of some of the programs we have, if you don’t understand where we came from and why we got to where we got. I’ve been told I’m an apologist for production agriculture a little bit. I think I’d probably turn that around and say, you know what, I’m trying to be a realist, and make sure that more people understand about what all goes on out there, and the risks that are associated with agriculture.”
The small number of people involved in production agriculture makes it a likely political target.
“One of the easiest ones is production agriculture. Probably one of the most important parts of my job is making sure the people in Washington really understand what they’re voting on and debating. I do a lot of work in Texas, but I do equally or more work in Washington because those people need to understand.”