Area farmers are waiting for more details on the farm bill that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday to see how it will affect their operations.
Murray State University Hutson School of Agriculture Dean Tony Brannon says the new bill gets rid of the base farmers have received for growing certain major crops, which will save $5 billion a year.
“We’re under a very difficult economic time, and this is one way that agriculture has come to the table and said that we understand that it’s tough times and we’re decreasing government assistance by this amount,” Brannon sais. “The farm sector is very, very important, and needs to be taken care of but they’ve chosen the route of income protection and safety net rather than the direct payments.”
Crop insurance is a safety net for farmers in case of natural disasters like drought or price decline for their commodities. But crop insurance will vary each year depending on weather and price fluctuations, concerning some agriculture and economic experts.
Brannon says the direct payments that have been removed from the legislation paid farmers based on the acreage they used to grow certain major crops.
“It’s always, always good to have a bottom line and a base, and certainly the direct payments were that, but they were not such that it was make or break for a local farmer whereas crop insurance is certainly a necessity.”
Apart from the large policy change, Brannon said he is pleased that the farm bill will continue to support educational research needs.
“One of the main things in the new farm bill is that it reauthorizes a non-land grant colleges of agriculture capacity building grants that we’ve worked on for several years and been pretty successful at getting,” he said. “So under the education component of that that was reauthorized so that’s a plus for Murray State University and our Hutson School of Agriculture.”
Brannon says the university has submitted three grant proposals in the past two years, all of which have been funded. Those projects include the Racer Academy dual credit system and a bio-burner heating project at MSU’s equine instructional facility.
The passage of a new five-year farm bill has been stalled for more than two years, and this new proposal includes cuts to food stamps and income caps on farm subsidies that is projected to save nearly $17 billion over the next decade. The Senate is expected to take up the bill this week.