WANTED: A Farm Bill to Benefit Everyone

The 2013 growing season has certainly has its share of challenges.  Iowa farmers worried about the lack of subsoil moisture in March, and then we experienced record rainfall in April.  Planting was already considered “late” when we found ourselves, once again, forced from the fields due to downpours.

My planter is parked, and from the looks of the forecast, it’s going to be parked for quite some time.  How disappointing…  I had all intentions of finishing #plant13 by Memorial Day, but Mother Nature decided to show me who was boss!  The skies opened up on Friday evening, and rain fell literally all weekend long.  The 24-hour precipitation totals for Iowa Falls in North Central Iowa were:

from Friday to Saturday                 0.19”
from Saturday to Sunday               1.72”
from Sunday to Monday                3.42”

5.33” fell over the holiday weekend!

More than 5 inches of rain fell across North Central Iowa from Friday through Memorial Day. Many local creeks were out of their banks, and many farm fields flooded. The water is receding, leaving “trash” on the road. Thankfully, the sun is peaking through the clouds on Tuesday afternoon.

As I sat watching the rain fall, I couldn’t help but think about the Farm Bill and the importance of crop insurance.  Like many farmers, I’m wondering how yields will be impacted by planting dates, planting conditions plus factors that will influence yield during the rest of the growing season.  Honestly, I’m glad there is federal crop insurance.

Not everyone feels the same as I was reminded on May 26 when The Des Moines Sunday Register ran editorial touting why the “Farm Bill Should Benefit Everyone.”  What a great headline!  It caught my attention and even held it until I read the subheading: “Better nutrition, sustainable farming are in the public interest.”  Wow, these people are good!  Two great statements in a row, and the editorial copy is even better.  (Insert sarcasm here.)  Here’s an excerpt:

These farm bills, which must be updated every five years, were created during the Depression to protect family farmers from the gyrations of the marketplace and natural disasters. But they have morphed into programs that subsidize corporate agribusinesses, often at the expense of family farmers, the environment and the real nutritional needs of the nation.

This editorial also states that “crop insurance is so lucrative” that farmers are taking unnecessary risks and putting marginal lands into production.  The Register claims crop insurance is pork belly (as a pig farmer, I just had to throw that in!) because it helps insure use against economic losses from the market turning against us.  I’m not certain how this is different from a weather loss – a loss is a loss and either can put me out of business!

Yet, The Register editors claim that farm programs unfairly help the big farmer.  That’s news to me as I’m a small farmer, and I’m the guy who needs that insurance!  Crop insurance helps reduce risk – especially for beginning and small farmers – plus ensures bank loans will be repaid.  I can only remember collecting one time for crop insurance, so I’ve collected much less than I have paid in in premiums.  However, it’s a way for me to insure that I can regroup and farm next year.  Crop insurance is what makes it possible to keep farming with some certainty, and that’s especially comforting in a year this!

It’s of great concern that people who don’t understand farming are the ones writing editorials and making rules.  We all want everyone to have enough safe food, and we want our farm ground to always be productive.  That doesn’t mean, however, that we need a Farm Bill that benefits everyone!