Ohio Farmers Union President Roger Wise and longtime member James Zumbrink were quoted in the Columbus Dispatch today regarding the drought and Congress’ inattention to the Farm Bill.
This year’s drought, affecting a huge swath of the United States is severely disrupting agriculture from corn to livestock grazing. Here’s a bit of the Dispatch coverage – click the link at the end to read the whole story at their website:
WASHINGTON — In a Congress that is arguably the most broken in years, if not decades, the farm bill stands out as a symbol of its inability to agree on, well, almost anything.
Farmers this year have faced a devastating drought — so far, the federal government has named 1,369 counties across 31 states disaster areas — and traditionally would rely on the farm bill to provide a crucial safety net.
But the current farm bill, authorized in 2008, runs out on Sept. 30, and some elements of the 2008 bill already have expired. While a new bill passed the Senate in June, and a House committee approved a different bill earlier this month, the full House has been unable to agree on a measure.
The holdup: An unlikely coalition of members has kept House leadership from bringing it to the floor for a vote. It includes members on the left concerned that the bill doesn’t do enough to provide food to the poor and those on the right concerned it spends too much.
It’s a caucus of intractability, and it is spurring increased worry as the deadline approaches.
“We need farm bills and farm legislation in times of catastrophe,” said Roger Wise, a northwestern Ohio farmer who is also president of the Ohio Farmers Union. Wise said he’s not crazy about the Senate bill or the House bill, but “the critical thing is we have a farm bill.”
Farmers affected by this year’s drought will be able to receive federally subsidized crop insurance, assuming they’ve signed up. Still, the drought has presented a stark reminder to many of the importance of federally subsidized crop insurance, and it has lent a level of uncertainty to future years.
In Ohio, only five counties in the northwest have been named disaster areas, but that’s only because they border counties in Michigan or Indiana that have been formally declared drought areas. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has urged the federal government to declare an emergency for Ohio farmers affected by the drought.
Ohio farmers have definitely been affected.
Jim Zumbrink, a farmer from Rossburg in Darke County, expects his corn crop to be paltry this fall. He said he’s always a year behind in marketing, and will bring last year’s grain to market this year. But “next year, we won’t have anything to market. And that’s when it will really hurt me.”
He said he’d be OK with an extension of the farm bill. He would not be OK, he said, with the farm bill expiring.
“Something’s better than nothing,” he said.