1/29/2014 at 2:00 p.m.
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Farm Bureau officials thanked members of the state’s House of Representatives delegation who voted for passage of the conference committee version of the farm bill, H.R. 2662, which cleared the House Wednesday morning.
The vote, 251-161 for passage, paves the way for a five-year program that will give farmers the ability to plan for the future. Congressmen Rick Crawford, Tim Griffin and Steve Womack voted for passage. The Senate is expected to vote on the proposal as early as Thursday.
Sen. John Boozman and Rep. Crawford were members of the conference committee, which worked to bridge the differences between the Senate and House versions of the farm bill that were passed last fall.
Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach, a cotton, soybean, corn and wheat farmer from Manila (Mississippi County), said the organization was supportive of passage, though there were several areas that leave voids in the traditional farm safety net.
“This is far from a perfect bill, but we do welcome the certainty it brings to farmers and ranchers,” Veach said Wednesday from the organization’s winter commodity meetings. “Having a five-year program, as opposed to year-by-year or ad-hoc programs, was imperative, particularly as we go about making planting and livestock decisions for the coming year.”
Veach noted the 2014 Farm Bill includes more than $7 billion for livestock producers through conservation (EQIP, etc.), disaster and grazing programs.
The 2014 Farm Bill includes the expansion of crop-insurance programs and eliminates direct payments. Crop-insurance programs kick in when weather significantly impacts crop yields.
“Direct payments were crucial for mid-south farmers, particularly those who rely heavily on irrigation to help ensure they make a crop,” said Veach. “We will work with USDA’s Risk Management Agency to develop a crop-insurance program that will work for irrigated crops. As it stands now, the expansion of crop-insurance doesn’t help the majority of mid-south row-crop farmers. The proposed reference prices in this farm bill won’t replace the safety net that direct payments provided, but at least it will help.”
Veach was pleased that the legislation maintained the historic connection between commodity and nutrition programs and preserves the farm bill’s permanent law tenants.
“We believe that is a natural, and obvious, connection, where the production of food and the feeding of those in need are appropriately connected,” Veach said.
“Farmers make a living adapting to changes, whether it is market forces, improvements in technology or weather. We will have to adjust to this new farm bill, for sure. But I believe in the resourcefulness of our farmers.”
Arkansas Farm Bureau is a nonprofit, private advocacy organization of more than 195,000 families throughout the state working to improve farm and rural life.
For more information contact:
Box 31, Little Rock 72203