No one knows for sure when farm bill legislation will be debated in Congress. But the fact the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee has moved up the hearing schedule means "we need to be ready."
That advice came from Tom Sell, of Combest and Associates, speaking Thursday to the National Sorghum Producers (NSP) general session at Commodity Classic in Nashville, Tenn. Sell and Larry Combest, former Congressman and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, formed Combest & Associates in 2005. The firm represents the interests of coalitions and agencies, including NSP.
Sell also told producers that all of agriculture has to be united in what they want in the next farm bill. "Agriculture is not big enough to be divided."
Sell listed four principles to guide the discussions. First, he said, "Do not harm crop insurance. Crop insurance is working. Without it where would farmers be who experienced drought in 2011? For example, more than $100 million in indemnities were paid to producers in Lubbock County, Texas."
He noted the biggest threat to crop insurance programs could be indirect cuts, rather than huge direct cuts.
Keep it simple
"Growers don't want some fancy government program. They want to be able to make choices and use their own skills," continued Sell. So he noted the second key point is to keep the farm bill legislation simple.
Direct payments will likely be cut. "So we need to provide relevant government assistance as needed. What can we come up with so that we have assistance when needed?
The fourth guiding principle in developing the farm bill should be regulating agriculture as needed. "Do not add more uncertainty by adding more regulations."
Sell said "we should be able to get this done but the key point is we need unity. There are a lot of critics of the last farm bill package. A lot of folks hate ag."