From the Ground Up - The Farm Bill Debate

The Senate and the House have yet to come to an agreement on a new Farm Bill. The Senate is proposing a four-hundred million dollar a year reduction in food stamps over the next ten years while the House bill cuts the program by almost four billion dollars per year.

The difference has caused a stale mate that could result in a new Farm Bill not being passed. Joe Outlaw is a Texas A&M Agrilife Extension economist.

“Most people that do what I do are thinking that we’re probably going to get an extension of the current policy. I do not believe that. I think we’ll either get the bill done by this fall, by the end of this calendar year, or we’re going to have a hard time getting an extension. The average congress person doesn’t understand how important agriculture is. There’s only a hand full of congressional districts that you would call ag oriented districts anymore.”

The major differences between the Senate and House versions of the new farm bill are in the amount of cuts to the food stamp program, and little to do with the safety net for agriculture.

“One of the reasons why there’s less pressure for a Farm Bill is that we’ve had a number of years of prosperity across the country. Now we in Texas have had a series of droughts, and that’s affected us, but across the country prices have been all time highs for wheat, corn, soybeans, and probably some other things that I’m forgetting. But when you have that situation, it doesn’t appear that there needs to be a safety net, and the number one thing, the very first thing out of my mouth every time I talk to a congress person is that you do not do farm policy for the good times, you do it for the bad.”

Outlaw believes that without a safety net, sooner or later low commodity prices or weather disasters could force enough farmers out of business to affect the nation’s food supply. He’s hopeful that won’t have to happen to get law maker’s support.

“Until we have a problem with food shortages, that gets people’s attention, we’re going to have a situation where we have people voting based off of what they feel is right, but they really are uninformed, so we have to pick up the phone and call these people and give them ag’s message which is, we’re not asking for a lot, we just need that safety net to help keep us in business when things go bad.”