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Opinion by Klodette Stroh

WIFE Visits Washington, D.C. by Klodette Stroh

Paul Harvey says it all in this well-thought statement, “And on the eight day God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker,’ so God made farmers.” 

Women Involved in Farm Economics, or WIFE, members traveled from states of Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, New York, Washington and Wyoming to Washington, D.C. WIFE is a grass roots organization that represents U.S. farmers and ranchers.

During the visit to United State Department of Agriculture (USDA), USDA’s James Radintz, the director of the Farm Service Agency (FSA), informed the group that FSA has money in their budget for direct loans to help young farmers to start farming. He said there would be a limit of $300,000 dollars for operating expenses and $300,000 for machinery purchases. 

Crop insurance has been a very sensitive issue during this year’s Farm Bill. The 2008 Farm Bill has been extended to Sept. 15, 2013. The Farm Bill is an amendment to the Permanent Law of 1949, and it has an interesting history. In 1938, U.S. Congress had passed the Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1938 and in 1949, the Agriculture Act (“Act of 1949”), which have been repeatedly suspended by several farm bills. In case of failure to enact a new farm bill, the old Act of 1949 would again become legally effective. Often this Act has been called “Permanent Law.” The core operation of the federal crop insurance program is protected under the permanent law. This means the federal crop insurance program would not be affected if neither an extension of Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (FSRIA) nor a new Farm Bill were enacted. 

The duration of the new Farm Bill will be from 2014 to 2023. Mandatory spending in the bill includes 77.9 percent of the Farm Bill in nutrition program.  The special nutrition programs authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and Child Nutrition Act of 1966 include the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children and the school lunch and breakfast program; food stamps and food distribution programs authorized by the Food Stamp Act of 1977; emergency food assistance program authorized by the Emergency Food Act of 1983; and the commodity supplemental food program authorized by the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Act of 1973. 

Commodity program’s share of the bill is, for crop insurance, 8.7 percent, and conservation programs have a share of 6.6 percent. All others are 0.3 percent. American taxpayers and lawmakers can clearly see majority of farm bill funding is to assure nutrition for our children.

As a farmer, irrigator and water commissioner for Shoshone Irrigation District, the National Blueways system was on my mind during my visit with our honorable Representative Cynthia Lummis, Senator Enzi and Senator Barrasso. We all know our state of Wyoming has a unique geographic situation. The Continental Divide subdivides the state into four major drainage basins. Rivers such as Missouri, Columbia, Colorado and Great Salt Lake Basins are in Wyoming. This geographic feature had made Wyoming the “Headwaters of the West.” Buffalo Bill Reservoir is the source of water to over 97,000 acres of land in Park and Big Horn counties. I have been very concerned about Wyoming people’s water rights and how the National Blueways system would interfere with landowner water rights and irrigator’s way of irrigating in this state. Wyoming’s delegation should be commended for their support and protecting Wyoming water laws. 

U.S. consumers spend 10 percent of their incomes on food. This is the lowest of any country.  Federal Crop Insurance mainly helps farmers to insure crops during the bad weather.  The fact is spending on farm policy including crop insurance was down over 20 percent in five years.  Farmer commodities add over $37 billion in trade for U.S. economy, which will help to reduce this countries record high deficit. The truth of the matter is that farm support costs Americans just two pennies per meal and accounts for less than one quarter of one percent of the federal budget.

Farmers and ranchers spend over $329 billion on seed, tractor equipment, fertilizer and labor.

As National Sugar Chairperson, I am concern about America’s sugar industry. Sugar prices have collapsed because subsidized sugar has been imported from Mexico and elsewhere.  Opponents of sugar policy – namely large food manufacturers – have launched an aggressive lobbying effort to strip the USDA of the tools Congress gave it to deal with crippling oversupplies caused by subsidized foreign sugar.  American farmers have to face a devastating 50 percent sugar price reduction. There is no business that can afford such financial setbacks.

The sugar program operates at no cost to taxpayers and gives a fair trade to import sugar from 41 different countries. Please contact your congress people to support the sugar program.

Farmers and ranchers are the backbone of this country.  Eliminating farm policy will not balance the budget, but it would damage our economy and jeopardize our security.