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Confusing farm bill troubles farmers

BY AARON WALKER | FEBRUARY 10, 2015 5:00 AM

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A complicated farm bill has left Iowa farmers with confusion over what’s best for their crops.

A year after Congress reauthorized the farm bill, farmers are faced with a March 31 deadline to decide which programs provided by the updated legislation will benefit their farms most.

Farmers must choose to enroll in agricultural-risk coverage or price-loss coverage: The risk-coverage plan is available on a county or individual level and provides revenue-loss payments to eligible producers through 2018. Over the same period of time, the price loss plan provides coverage for eligible crops, though it does not cover revenue losses.

Dave Miller, the head of the Iowa Farm Bureau’s research and commodity services division, has held educational seminars across the state to help Iowa’s farmers make the most beneficial decisions for their businesses.

“Farmers are trying to figure out which will work better as a risk-management tool that will work for their farms for the next five years,” he said.

The decision is challenging, he said, because farmers cannot predict what prices and yields could be in the coming years.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told The Daily Iowan in a press call last week that confusion has spread through his constituency and that he has heard it in town meetings.

“It has been about only thing that has come up … even my very own son at Christmas time said you guys couldn’t have written a more complicated farm bill,” Grassley said. “These two programs are kind of complicated and wouldn’t be so complicated … except when farmers make choices by end of March, they’re stuck with that for five years.”

Some farmers, such as Tyler Rochleau of McGregor, said the issue stems from the mathematic and economic complexity that factor into the creation of these coverage options.

“Most of the time, farmers are unable to understand anything about the systems,” he said. “It’s hard for us to follow [that] level of thinking. We trust that the systems will work for us by the recommendations of crop-insurance salesmen.”

Grant Kimberley, the executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board who operates a farm with his father, said the two are still in the process of picking a coverage option.

“I think there have been some people who looked at it and made a quick decision, but certainly [there are] some who have struggled more with it,” Kimberley said.

He noted that through every farm bill is consistently complex, and this one adds an additional tier of confusion. Kimberley said farmers might choose to combine aspects of the different plans for different crops or acres.

“They might choose one for corn, one for soybeans, farm in more than one county and a different program in another county,” he said. “In a way to hedge the risk based off what you think the future will be like.”

Despite the confusion, some farmers, such as Alan Mollie of Lisbon, have seen minimal effects from the changes in the farm bill.

 He said he does not foresee any major changes to his economic investments and crop insurance.

“As of right now, I have not changed my grain operation according to farm bill changes,” he said. “[We’re] sticking to original plan and doing the same crop rotation.”


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