fb - voice of agriculture
March 2005

Farm Spending: A Commitment to America

Bob Stallman
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

A wise person once said there's no abiding success without commitment. Commitment is the code that guides our daily lives, and relationships with our families, our neighbors and our country.

We view the 2002 farm bill as such a commitment. The law not only holds a measure of economic stability for our country’s agricultural producers and our rural communities, but for all Americans it delivers food security, affordability and availability, all the while rewarding the stewardship of our natural resources. These are the types of worthy commitments on which our nation and our society are built.

Worthy Commitments

Through the 2002 farm bill our elected leaders approved a long-term commitment to our producers and it would be unfortunate for all producers and Americans to shift that policy before the end of its term. It would be hardest of all on farmers, who plan their investments and decisions based on a multi-year process, which like any successful business plan is most effective when free from unforeseen mid-stream surprises.

Unfortunately, due to the tight margins many farmers and ranchers face today, changing the current programs could cause major difficulty. Those margins are only becoming tighter due to the rising costs of seed, fuel and fertilizer. Unlike other professions, farmers simply cannot pass on new and added costs to consumers. Instead, the costs often make a direct hit to the farm family and rural America. Not only would the farmer be negatively affected by farm program cuts, but local equipment and fertilizer dealers and others working in rural America also would feel indirect impacts.

It is also important for the future of U.S. agricultural trade that the farm bill stays intact. U.S. trade negotiators need the full leverage provided by the current farm program to secure the best possible deal for U.S. farm goods during global trade talks. The results of the negotiations, in particular the results on domestic support commitments, will set the tone for future farm bills. Any cuts that take place prior to a formal trade agreement would place American agriculture at a serious competitive disadvantage for decades to come.

U.S. farm program payments are helping today’s farm families survive and compete in a global marketplace. The latest statistics indicate that Japan subsidizes its farmers to the tune of $3,960 per acre. The European Union comes in second at $320 per acre, while the United States lags at a mere $49 an acre. World trade talks are our best hope to correct this market manipulation by our competitors, but without the pressure of our farm program, the road to fairer trade will be a treacherous path.

Commitment to All

To highlight the wide variety of programs encompassed by farm program funding, a group of more than 100 diverse organizations, including Farm Bureau, recently joined together to ensure cuts are not made during development of the 2006 budget. Groups such as the Children’s Defense Fund, Defenders of Wildlife and American Farmland Trust are working hand-in-hand to protect critical farm programs.

The American Farm Bureau Federation plans to work diligently with Congress during the next several months to maintain the viability and success of the 2002 farm bill. It is not only one of our highest priorities – it is our commitment to America’s farmers and ranchers, rural America and all consumers.