Reports are coming in about the severe drought that is plaguing farmers in the Dakotas and other parts of the Midwest. I was just in Iowa, where the corn was shriveling up from lack of rain.
With crop and other crop prices much lower than they were just a few short years ago, farmers were already struggling. Now, with the drought, many farmers may not even have a crop to sell, at any price. Cotton farmers in parts of the South have had the opposite problem: too much rain flooding out their fields and stunting their crops. Couple that with the risk management challenges facing the dairy sector and it boils down to an opportunity to make much-needed changes in the 2018 farm bill.
When Congress was debating the current farm bill four years ago, the farm economy was flying high. But we knew the good times would not last. That’s why we kept reminding Congress that farm bills are written for the bad times, not the good years. Well, the bad times are here, especially for certain commodities and regions.
I recently talked with a farmer who told me he would’ve been out of business by now if it wasn’t for crop insurance helping him survive a disaster year. Others are just as grateful for commodity programs such as the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs that help them cope with both low prices and low yields. By keeping farmers in production, the farm bill ensures that consumers have a dependable food supply.
Last week, the American Farm Bureau Federation sent our 2018 farm bill recommendations to Congress. At the top of the list is protecting current farm bill spending and prioritizing risk management tools that are so important to help farmers survive years like this one.
Now is not the time to pull the rug out from under our farmers. We need a strong, adequately funded farm bill now more than ever.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.