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Guest Opinions

Women Involved in Farm Economics Continues Successful Visits

President Ruth Laribee led a successful legislative visit with Women Involved in Farm Economics (WIFE) members from states of Colorado, Montana, North and South Dakota, New York, Nebraska, Washington and Wyoming to Washington D.C. WIFE is a grassroots organization that represents U.S. farmers and ranchers.

The first day visit to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Ed Avalos, the undersecretary for marketing and regulation, said the new Farm Bill gives security for commodity marketing. The economic impact of agriculture adds $750 billion to the U.S. economy every year and creates over 60 million jobs. Michael Scuse, director of Farm Service Agency, informed the group that U.S. has 72 offices in foreign countries to promote foreign agriculture marketing. 

In brief, the Farm Bill eliminates direct payments while strengthening and expanding crop insurance options; puts into place a permanent livestock disaster assistance fund; reforms dairy policy by repealing outdated programs and creating a new voluntary margin protection program without imposing government-mandated supply controls; and consolidates conservation programs and focuses those efforts on working lands.

It also continues funding for agricultural research; creates support for beginning farmers; and reforms the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by addressing fraud and misuse; and assists with foreign agriculture and marketing and development. 

Matt Schertz, senior ag staffer for from Representative Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, explained it very clearly. The 2014 Farm Bill has eliminated the direct payment program to farmers.  He explained the federal crop insurance is in place to cover crop losses related to bad weather. 

Matt explained that there are three new programs to assist crop price losses. The New Farm Bill has a $100 million budget to educate the nation’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) employees and to implement crop losses program. Price losses provide a floor for crops target price. Farmers have to sign up for crop loss coverage, agriculture risk coverage and shallow coverage loss protection at the FSA offices.

Thanks to our lawmakers in the House and Senate for the great work they have done to maintain U.S. sugar policy to sustain our farmer-owned industry. The Farm Bill mandatory spending baseline for 2013-22 is $969 billion, with nutrition making up $772 billion of that. Agriculture itself represents a small portion of the Farm Bill.

Wyoming Senior Senator Michael Enzi has been an advocate of America’s agriculture. There is less than one percent of population that feeds us all. It is such a privilege to have Senator Enzi to work on balancing this nation’s budget deficit. Senator Enzi is well aware of economic impact of farming in America and importance of sugar income to the western states especially State of Montana and Wyoming.

America is already more dependent on foreign suppliers than most would think. Trade deals have forced the United States to be the second biggest sugar importer in the world. Imports account for approximately one-quarter of the market, and low prices in past years have forced 33 U.S. sugar facilities to close between 1996 and 2008. 

Agriculture has been the stepping stone for this great country’s fortune. America can easily overcome the huge budget deficit. We can easily payoff this nation’s debt by following America’s founding fathers’ wisdom. Presidents like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt knew the blessing of having good farmers in this new land. 

We have to make sure the 2014 Congress supports U.S. agriculture sector. History is a wise teacher, and if we look back and learn from our past mistakes, we will prosper from this great teacher.