Support for the 2012 Farm Bill, despite the bipartisan vote it received in the Senate last month, appears to be divided along regional lines, with Southern farmers still upset at the loss of various farm subsidies, Midwestern farmers glad at reformed crop insurance programs, and major urban areas worried about potential cuts to Food Stamp funding.
Balancing regional interests and partisan ideologies has always made writing major legislation like the farm bill difficult. While nearly all American politicians acknowledge the importance of agriculture to the larger American economy, their constituents back home have very different needs and desires.
The 2012 Farm Bill represents this hodgepodge of interests. Southern farmers are still smarting from the elimination of direct payment farm subsidies and several major crop subsidies. In particular, they are resentful that the farm bill appears to be written to benefit Midwestern commodity growers. Unlike corn farmers, Southern rice and peanut farmers still depend on direct subsidies and will have a more difficult time adjusting to more indirect crop insurance programs.
This appearance of unfairness particularly aggravates many Southern politicians. Corn farmers, largely concentrated in the Midwest, stand to lose about $6 billion in payments over the next decade (in an industry that makes about $76 billion a year). The rice industry, worth about $2.6 billion, stands to lose nearly $3 billion over the next decade.
Southern representatives in the House have suggested adding back some of the eliminated subsidies, but proposed paying for them by seriously cutting nutritional support (which currently makes up about 80 percent of the farm bill). Added to this regional conflict is an intense partisan debate. The likelihood of a Republican controlled House of Representatives and a Democratic controlled Senate coming to an agreement over farm spending seems less and less likely as the election season kicks off.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer