Earlier this week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack addressed farmers at Des Moines, Iowa and discussed the upcoming Farm Bill as well as the agricultural budget in general. This month has been a difficult one for American farmers. In addition to bouts of bad weather, Congress is gearing up to cut billions of dollars from the American farm budget.
Particularly worrisome for many agricultural and environmental groups is the loss of direct farm subsidies. While no bill has been approved yet, the Congressional supercommittee, charged with cutting nearly $2 trillion from the federal budget, has expressed interest in doing away with direct farm payments. While the farm economy is currently good, many farmers are worried that a future drop in crop prices or a string of poor weather, combined with the removal of direct payments, could leave them in a bad fiscal situation.
In addition, environmental groups are concerned about the impact of this subsidy elimination on conservation programs. Currently, conservation measures are required to be eligible for direct farm payments. Many groups have acknowledged that it is an important compliance tool.
With the upcoming elimination of direct payments, many environmentalists are concerned that there will be no incentive to participate in conservation programs, particularly with the budget for such programs being repeatedly cut. This fear was confirmed during Vilsack’s Des Moines visit, when he rejected tying other farm subsidies to conservation, stating, “I won’t be the one to say that compliance should be tied directly to crop insurance.”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer