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Right or wrong for the U.S. farmer?

Agriculture.com Staff 05/16/2008 @ 10:27am

With farmers anxiously looking toward a still unclear conclusion to spring planting, questions abound with Thursday's Senate passage of the farm bill.

The bill could reach the White House by Tuesday and, with a veto override majority in both the House and Senate, it seems inevitable that the legislation will become law.

But, is it right for the U.S. farmer? In early results of an Agriculture Online poll, 60% of farmers responding say, if in the President's shoes, they would veto the bill. Some say the bill does little to protect the producers of crops like cotton, and other farmers could feel the same cost pressures with a downturn in the now-robust markets for corn, soybeans and wheat.

"We cannot afford these high input prices without all the help we can get," writes one Agriculture Online Farm Business Talk member and poll-taker. "If this continues, I fear many more cotton acres will go to corn or beans next year. Cotton has got to pay to play."

Still other farmers say the bill's adequacy in supporting the ag industry is not the driver for current White House veto threats. It's a matter altogether apart from the farm gate, writes another Farm Business Talk member.

"The only reason this president would veto this bill is because he is petulant. He's trying to paint a picture of a fiscally responsible president to add to his legacy," he writes. "One can only hope the Congress will give him a slap down, a veto override."

Despite divisiveness like this among some members of the ag community, Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) told reporters Friday he feels the bill adequately will protect all farmers in times of both high and low prices.

"I believe we have enough in the commodity title to protect farmers if prices collapse. We put in the average crop revenue program as an option for farmers, where by giving up a little payment for loan rates, they can get a higher countercyclical payment," Harkin said. "That's more toward where we need to be, in my way of thinking. We're not giving farmers money when they’re making money, but making sure we have a safety net when bottom falls out of prices. That’s why the major farm organizations support this bill."

One such group strongly backing the bill approved in the House and Senate this week is the American Farmland Trust (AFT). The new commodity title, including the average crop revenue measure, goes a long way in ensuring payments get to where they're needed, according to AFT president Ralph Grossi.

"This historic change allows producers to choose a market-oriented, risk management tool that adjusts with market prices and pays farmers only when they need it -- when they suffer a real loss in revenue," he says.

With farmers anxiously looking toward a still unclear conclusion to spring planting, questions abound with Thursday's Senate passage of the farm bill.

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