While 2007 Farm Bill legislation is in the early writing stages, U.S. Ag Secretary Mike Johanns registered his disappointment on Tuesday regarding House subcommittee action. Title I legislation put forth by the House Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management "fails to recognize the need for greater equity and predictability in farm policy. It does nothing to provide a more responsive safety net.
"We must address farm policy that provides the highest payments when abundant yields lead to moderate prices and provides no payments when low or no yields lead to high prices. The bill advanced today offers no remedy.
"Some farmers would continue to receive guaranteed money while others, including 60% of farmers, are left out. Fruit and vegetable growers in California, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and elsewhere make a compelling case that they deserve to be supported."
Johanns believes the Administrations proposals – more research and other forms of support – not direct subsidies, are more equitable among crops and farm sizes. "Beginning farmers legitimately question policy that delivers more than half of government payments to 9% of farms - large, commercial operators. Yet, the House draft continues this disparate policy."
"There's a point at which successful farmers should graduate from subsidy programs," he contends. "Farmers among the wealthiest 2% of Americans should be applauded for their success and graduated from government subsidies."
The Administration proposes gradually eliminating commodity subsidies for farmers with adjusted gross incomes of $200,000 or more, averaged over three years. It is the right thing to do and it allows us to direct increased support to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers.
"It's my hope that farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders who have expressed passionate support for an increased commitment to conservation, specialty crops and beginning and minority farmers are paying close attention. The subject of their passion is at stake," says Johanns.
The House draft offers no overall funding increase for conservation. The Administration put forth a proposal to increase funding by $7.8 billion.
The House draft offers no mandatory funding for renewable energy. The Administration proposes more than $1.6 billion in new renewable energy funding, targeted to cellulosic ethanol projects.
The House draft offers no mandatory funding for specialty crop research. The Administration proposes $1 billion in mandatory funds.
Johann's list was long. "We have much work ahead," he concludes. "Our farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders deserve to be presented with a vision for the future instead of reliance on policies of the past."