The election has passed and maybe surprisingly, not much has
changed in Washington, D.C.
We returned a strong Republican House, a Democrat Senate, and
Barack Obama to the White House.
This group, leading up to the election, failed to collectively
produce a farm bill on time. Now that the election season is over, there is
hope that reasonable thoughts will prevail and a farm bill will be dealt with
in the ‘lame duck’ session of Congress before the end of the year.
Some in Congress have expressed optimism this can happen, but
that optimism has been met with equally strong pessimism. This country needs to do better than
that. Farmers and ranchers need timely
information in order to plan crop plantings, budgets and loan requirements.
The Senate, particularly two in the Senate, deserves praise for
moving a farm bill forward. Sen. Pat Roberts, Republican from Kansas,
and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Democrat from Michigan,
put partisan politics aside and were instrumental in moving a bill out of the
upper chamber. However, when the bill was moved across the rotunda to the
House, it never made it to the floor for debate.
Reports indicate that when members of the 112th Congress
reassemble for the lame-duck session, one of the biggest budget-cutting targets
in their crosshairs may be federal spending on the crop insurance program. That
is not logical thinking.
With the cuts totaling more than $20 billion, agriculture has
taken in the Senate version of the farm bill through loss of direct and other
payments, crop insurance is now accepted as the leading focal point to provide
a needed safety net for farmers and ranchers. Given the weather and other
factors, farmers and ranchers must have some kind of risk management. Farming
is so capital intensive that bankers and others involved in the operation need
the backing of risk management tools. If we lose the federal crop insurance
program, or it is cut to the point that it is prohibitively expensive, we could
see a restructuring of American agriculture simply because there are too many
farmers and ranchers that can’t stand that kind of risk.
As much of farm country has been devastated by a two-year drought
and as the east coast has seen the massive losses from a monster hurricane, it
should be clear to lawmakers that risk management tools are the preservation of
life as we know it and the security of food on our table. Let’s hope this
reality sinks in and some of those who remain in power do better for agriculture
this time around.
Steve Baccus is the Kansas Farm Bureau
president. He farms in Ottawa