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Chances for a New Farm Bill Remain

Beth Bechdol

A gathering of Indiana’s top farmers and agribusiness leaders took place in Indianapolis on Wednesday and was sponsored by Ice Miller, LLP.  The meeting focused on the future of agriculture, including farm policy.  Beth Bechdol, with Ice Miller, feels there has been some movement on a farm bill compromise; and she is optimistic a new 5 year bill can still be adopted. In an exclusive interview with HAT, she said there are signs a compromise on the commodity title is in the works between House and Senate leaders, “Senator Pat Roberts has indicated he would be willing to accept a commodity title that contained options for both a target price and shallow loss approach in the commodity programs.” The Senate-passed Farm Bill contained a shallow loss revenue program, while the House Ag Committee version favored a target price approach, supported by southern state lawmakers. “That means the only remaining issue is the amount of funding for the nutrition programs,” said Bechdol. She added that if Congressional leaders and the White House can agree on the larger budget issues, the Farm Bill could be passed as part of a comprehensive package.


If Congress does not pass a new Farm Bill, Bechdol says it needs to take action to prevent farm programs from reverting to programs from the 1930s. “We at least have to take action to procedurally suspend those old programs or we will get parts of old farm programs that are not applicable today,” she stated.  In addition, if no new Farm Bill is adopted or extension put in place, funding must be authorized for some key dairy programs which will  run out of money at the end of the year.


If Congress and the White House do not reach a comprise on the large budget issue, sequestration will kick in, cutting $110 billion out of the federal budget for each of the next 10 years. Bechdol says, if that happens, some farm programs will be impacted, “Agricultural research would be, foreign market development that is important to our exports would be cut, some conservation programs would be cut, and it is likely some of the funding for crop insurance would be cut.” Bechdol, Director of Agribusiness Strategies for Ice Miller, admitted to a great deal of frustration over the political impasse and lack of compromise in Washington.  Yet, she remains optimistic, “There is just too much at stake to give up.” She said the House and Senate Ag Committee leadership along with farm and commodity groups have done their homework and have put in the time to make a Farm Bill happen, if Congressional leadership and the White House can find a way to come together on the key budget issues. When asked if a new Farm Bill could be passed in 2013 with a new Congress, again she said a lot of the work has already been done, so it would be possible.


The Agribusiness Update Summit featured presentations by Brent Gloy, director of the Commercial Agriculture Center at Purdue; Kip Tom, of Tom Farms in Kosciusko County; and Jim Schutz, of Open Prairie Ventures of Effingham, IL. The presentations dealt with the future of agriculture and how technology, innovation, and policy will impact Midwestern agriculture.


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