National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson spoke on a panel today at the American Sugar Association Sugar Symposium entitled, “Farm Policy’s Future: Weathering the Storm in Washington.” The symposium was held in Stowe, Vt.
“The 2012 Farm Bill faces quite a few hurdles, not the least of which is the budget situation,” said Johnson. “The passage of the debt ceiling bill in Congress should help give us a better idea of how much money the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate Agriculture Committees will have to write the legislation. We still do not know exactly how much money we will have to write the next farm bill. Only time will tell. We do know that there will be less money available for the next farm bill, so it is critical that the agriculture community comes together to ensure that the next farm bill has everything we need, even if it doesn’t have everything we want.”
Jerry Hagstrom, director and executive editor of the Hagstrom Report moderated the panel, which featured Johnson, Mary Kay Thatcher, director of Public Policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation, and Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association.
“One of the most essential things that must be included in any farm bill is a strong safety net to protect family farmers and ranchers,” said Johnson. “The Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) Program has no funding baseline past this year, and 36 other farm bill programs, including four other disaster programs, have no funding past next year. We must ensure that SURE and other disaster programs receive the funding they need. Between 1996 and 2002, the federal government made $30 billion in emergency payments to farmers and ranchers because it cut the safety net from the 1996 Farm Bill, written during a time of high prices. We must not repeat that mistake. The cost to extend SURE and other disaster programs for five years is a much more reasonable $8.9 billion. In the long run, including disaster programs in the farm bill is cost-effective.”