The current Farm Bill was passed in 2014 and work on the 2018 Farm Bill began last year. The bill will have to be passed sometime next year for there to be no break in the protection that the legislation offers farmers, and today’s commodity prices are much different than they were in 2014. Joe Outlaw is co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M.
“When you move to this next farm bill, prices are at least half of where they were during the discussion of the last one, if not lower for many crops. So we’re in a lot different financial situation for producers, and there’s going to be less money. There’s no big ground swell of support for adding money to this bill. And so this farm bill is going to have to take what existing money they have and try to protect farmers with a safety net. That’s going to be hard.”
Outlaw says that designing protection for the same or even more crops with less money will be a big challenge.
“When you start trying to say what should we do about agriculture, most reasonable people would say, you know what? Let’s not make people rich when times are good, but let’s have a minimal level of protection that keeps them in business so they can fight another year and go out and try to make a living on the land and provide food for this country at a reasonable cost. That’s where we’re at.”
Outlaw rejects the idea that government support is making farmers wealthy.
“Anybody who says there’s some sort of, we’re making farmers rich and all this other stuff you here from time to time, it’s nonsense. So we are in a situation where they’re trying to protect a many billion dollar industry, agriculture is a many, many, many billion dollar industry with a few billion dollars a year that they might spend if it’s needed.”