Farm Bureau’s Newton: Farm bill needs to be ‘strengthened’
The 2018 farm bill needs to be “strengthened,” American Farm Bureau Federation Chief Economist John Newton said Tuesday.
The level of ad hoc support in the last few years to deal with China trade problems and the coronavirus pandemic totaled $45 billion and raises questions about farm needs in the future, Newton said in a workshop for Farm Bureau members during its virtual convention.
The 2018 farm bill does not expire until 2023, but hurricanes and the derecho as well as the trade problems show “it has become immediately clear the current safety net in the farm bill is not adequate enough to help farmers and ranchers. Communicating that to the farm community is a high priority,” Newton said.
Farm incomes have risen, Newton noted, but the increase is due mostly to government payments.
Farm prices are up, but “where does the farm economy go in 2021 without that $45 billion? Where do we go moving forward with less support flowing into the sector?” Newton asked.
“Conversations on the farm bill will start sooner rather than later,” probably beginning with hearings on dairy, Newton said.
Beyond the issue of farm bill funding, “the next big thing” on the ag agenda is talking about climate and finding a way to work with Congress and the administration to provide financial incentives to expand climate-smart practices and make carbon sequestration a revenue stream, Newton said.
He noted that Farm Bureau favors increasing the spending power of the Commodity Credit Corporation, a USDA line of credit at the Treasury Department, above its current $30 billion per year level, with a provision to raise it with the inflation rate.
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