A new analysis reveals the nation's farm economy will get worse before it gets better. According the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, the net income of the nation's farmers will drop by some $7 billion this year. This despite a new farm law that subsidizes thousands more farmers. FAPRI blames the drop in income mostly on tumbling livestock and milk prices.
The analysis can't be encouraging news to farm groups that supported the farm bill during debate … and continue to back it now.
This week in Washington, leaders of seven major agricultural groups, including the American Farm Bureau and the National Corn Growers Association, met to express their concern over the prospect of changes to the 2002 farm law.
Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau Federation: "...and that's really what we're doing here today. Is pointing out the fact that we really should not have structural changes, changes that harm the structure of the bill. And particularly in the middle of the implementation process, as many of these gentlemen have talked about, just when our producers have made plans under the new set of rules and then have the rules change on them in the middle of the game. Actually, not even in the middle of the game but the beginning of the first inning, is just not very good policy
President of the American Farm Bureau Federation Bob Stallman, who moderated the press conference, is concerned Congressional agriculture appropriations committees will take-up legislation for disaster payments for fiscal 2003 now instead of waiting until after fall harvest. The group fears that some of the $190-billion set to be allocated over the next five years for support payments would be redirected to handle disaster payments. Stallman and the other six commodity representatives want disaster payments to come from separate legislation.
Currently, commodity prices have been on the rise. High prices reduce the amount of any payments made to farmers and increase the money available for other programs that are part of the 2002 law. If prices drop, as usual during fall harvest, the combination of disaster payments and counter-cyclical payments would cut into the money available over the five year life of the bill. There was further concern that any changes made to the bill might open the flood gates for reforms unpopular among many farmers, like caps on subsidy payments.