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Revise the Farm Bill to protect all farmers

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JUNE 18, 2012 6:30 AM

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America needs farmers.

As the stickers are seen at places ranging from car bumpers to the football helmets of the Hawkeyes, it's clear that Iowans understand this message. However, America not only needs farmers, it needs to protect its farmers. As farmers throughout the United States are often under-appreciated and under-protected, it's clear that when crafting a new farm bill, it is more important to ensure safety for farmers of all regions in America.

Because of the Farm Bill's significant effect on all U.S. farmers, the Senate should revise the current proposed farm bill to better serve the interest of all American farmers.

Although the bill extends safety to Iowa's and other Midwestern farmers, the bill's proposed system does significantly less to protect Southern farmers.

The bill would end direct payment from the federal government to farmers, expanding agriculture-insurance programs. Corn and soybeans, grown mostly in the Midwest, have more stable markets than do cotton and peanuts, which are primarily grown in the South. The different markets of the crops leave Southern farmers with too much risk, and there would be hardly anything of a safety net for them to fall back on.

Dale Moore, the deputy executive director of public policy with the American Farm Bureau, said the current bill is a good start for farmer-friendly legislation. However, he noted causes for concern in the proposed bill.

Although the American Farm Bureau said the proposed bill is a "good vehicle" for reaching new legislation, Moore said the bill must "tailor to modern-day needs [of farmers]" and that we need a more balanced farm bill, one that doesn't favor one region in particular.

We must remember that America needs all of its farmers and so a new farm bill shouldn't favor either the Midwest or the South.

Not surprisingly, the Iowa Farm Bureau supports the proposed farm bill.

"While it's not perfect, we have fundamental agreements with the 2012 farm bill, so we are urging the Senate to pass it, pass it now," said Don Peterson, the director of government relations for the bureau.

The Iowa Farm Bureau is correct in stressing the need for a new bill; however, we should get the bill to be as close as "perfect" as possible while we have the time. This is one of the very rare instances in which Republicans and Democrats have put their differences aside and crafted legislation that limits the federal government's role in financially ensuring farmers, leaving crop-insurance programs to provide the safety net.

The proposed bill not only provides unfairness between Midwestern and Southern farmers, but the bill also contains areas of unnecessary areas of government spending.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been very vocal with his opposition of the proposed bill, as he shared his "top-10 pork projects in Senate's farm bill," via Twitter.

The current bill would provide $40 million in grants to encourage private landowners to use land for hunting and bird watching; $25 million would be sponsored to research the health benefits of peas, lentils, and garbanzo beans. The bill also includes creating a new U.S.D.A. agency to inspect catfish — a redundant program, because the Food and Drug Administration already inspects catfish.

Because our national debt seems to have no decline in sight, it's clear that the farm bill should have as little government spending as possible. Spending $40 million to encourage landowners to use their land for bird watching and hunting certainly doesn't fit under the category of necessary spending.

Crafting a new farm bill is crucial to ensuring the protection for the often under appreciated American farmers. The need to get a new deal before the current bill expires this fall is obviously very important; however, the Senate must strive for the most adequate farm bill. This rare instance of partisanship between Republicans and Democrats must be taken advantage of so we can best serve the interest of America's unsung heroes, the American farmers.


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