Late last week members of Congress heard the case of the nation’s struggling farm economy and what they might be able to do proactively in Washington DC. Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert, Jr. appeared before the House Subcommittee on Biotechnology Horticulture and Research to explain low commodity prices, tightening credit, expensive land and rising costs of seed and fertilizer and the financial losses that will result.
“In 1985 it cost $110 in inputs for an acre of corn not counting land costs. This year I estimate that cost will be around $475 per acre. While some things are better like interest rates and fuel prices, Illinois Farm Bureau Farm Management reports that over the past four years farm income has dropped 6% per year, while costs have fallen at half that rate. In fact, indexed to inflation the economic return for Illinois farmers after family expenses is currently at its lowest level since 1972. One thing hasn’t changed,” he added, “farming is still risky business.”
So what can Congress do? Guebert highlighted some of the positive developments coming from the nation’s capital. But he said there are also works in progress, like the Food Safety Modernization Act, “where we are hopeful federal regulators will take into account agricultural needs. We also hope EPA will move forward with its pending proposal to extend dicamba and dicamba tolerant soybeans and cotton, and we welcome EPA’s support to state managed pollinator protection plans.”
He said there is a long list of things that increase the cost of farming in America and he highlighted several, including GMO food labeling.
“After all the good work this committee did to pass the safe and accurate food labeling act, the Senate has refused to pass the bill. Farmers across the country, and others are increasingly anxious about the impact of mandated federal labeling of GMO foods. We hope you will talk to your Senate colleagues and urge them to pass this bill.
Guebert testified for the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Illinois Farm Bureau. He is a member of the AFBF board and executive committee and his complete testimony is online here.