Farm Group Seeks Federal Disaster Aid and Early Consideration of the Farm Bill

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday that, “The National Farmers Union is calling on Congress to pass disaster aid and consider starting work early on a new farm bill as they and other ag leaders seek to draw more attention to the state of the farm economy.

“Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said in a phone interview on Wednesday that NFU and the leaders of Farm Aid want some emergency disaster aid to help producers weather the current downturn.”

Mr. Clayton explained that, “NFU brought in 275 farmers from around the country for their fall fly-in. Johnson said some of them were a little taken aback on Monday when they met with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The secretary said he understood that some farmers are having a difficult time.”

The DTN article noted that, “Vilsack also reminded NFU members that farm income levels over the past five years have been some of the best in recent history. ‘They needed to understand when they talk about tough times, there are a whole lot of people out there who are not doing as well as many farm families are doing,’ Vilsack said.

“The secretary said he told NFU members to consider where they stand relative to the average American family, Vilsack said. The average American farm family has a median income of about $76,282, according to USDA, which is $19,782 higher than average U.S. household.”

Recall that Sec. Vilsack made similar points in a conference call with agricultural reporters last week.

The DTN item also pointed out that, “Johnson added that Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., have indicated support for writing the next farm bill early. ‘So those conversations are happening up here and they are happening in particular because ARC [Agriculture Risk Coverage] has been real problematic,’ Johnson said.”

However, while speaking at an agricultural forum at the Kansas State Fair on Saturday, Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kans.) and House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R., Tex.) indicted no desire to open the Farm Bill early.

Chairman Conaway noted that low prices have spurred calls for re-opening the Farm Bill and for consideration of ad hoc disaster assistance; he indicated that “we are going to be very resistant to that.” Similarly, Chairman Roberts pointed out there could be a risk of losing more than could potentially be gained if the Farm Bill was opened back up.

In his DTN article, Mr. Clayton added that, “The Senate Agriculture Committee has scheduled a hearing for Sept. 21 with Vilsack specifically to look at USDA and the state of the farm economy.”

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