Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly spend the past week meeting with Indiana farmers and a wide variety of Hoosier farm organizations to listen to their concerns about the new Farm Bill. The freshman Senator told ag reporters on Friday that the message of a strong safety net based on crop insurance came through loud and clear, “Farming is a high risk business with inherent risks from weather, crops, and animals. The presence of crop insurance helps reduce some of that risk.” But the President’s budget calls for a cut in funding for crop insurance premiums. The Senator said he would fight for a Farm Bill that was good for Indiana and that would include strong support for crop insurance.
Donnelly admitted crafting a Farm Bill will be challenging. While not giving specifics, he said he felt a new Bill can be drafted that gives farmers what they need, but stays within the budget, “A Farm Bill can help reduce the federal deficit.” Deficit reduction was a key point made by Indiana corn growers when they met with the Senator. “We understand that the country faces unprecedented fiscal challenges and grain farmers are willing to do our part to balance the federal budget,” said Herb Ringel, president of Indiana Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Wabash County. “However, we need Congress to come together and pass a Farm Bill that balances both the need to be fiscally responsible and protect our farm families from potential multi-year crop disasters.”
As for when and if a Farm Bill can be adopted, Donnelly is confident a Farm Bill will be passed by Congress but admits they are already running behind schedule. “Indiana’s ag community deserves a common sense, five-year farm bill that will allow farmers to reap the rewards of their hard work, and put in place a safety net for natural disasters, market downturns, and events outside a farmer’s control,” said Donnelly. He indicated the Chairwoman of the Senate Ag Committee is hoping to begin hearings very soon.
Indiana soybean growers told Donnelly farmers are entering their second growing season with uncertainly about a government safety net. “As we gear up to start planting, most farmers’ greatest question is will we have a farm program that provides a safety net if we have another drought like most of the country experienced last year,” said Jim Cherry, who hosted the meeting in Hancock County where he farms with his sons Jeff and Chris. “Our customers, including the consumer, need price stability in the marketplace for our crops and getting a farm safety net program is critical for that stability.”
Friday morning, the Senator met with a group of farmers in Hendricks County on the farm of Mike Starkey. Here he met with members of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. The Senator voiced strong support for the conservation title of the Farm Bill but admitted that farmers may have to accept some cuts in conservation funding in order to get other programs into the Farm Bill. In the end, he said it will be a “balancing act” to craft a bill that is good for all of agriculture.
Earlier in the week Donnelly met with Don Vilwock and Indiana Farm Bureau. Here he was briefed on the latest AFBF Farm Bill proposal that some see as a starting point for the crafting of a new bill. Donnelly also met with Indiana Pork producers who he said were very interested in trade, “They want to make sure that present export markets stay open as well as opening new markets to US farm products.”
In his first term as a member of the Senate Ag Committee, Donnelly has openly asked for input from Indiana farmers, and farm groups have responded. “Our organizations will continue to work with our leadership in Washington, D.C. to make sure soybean and corn farmers are represented in the farm bill discussion,” said Jane Ade Stevens, ISA and ICGA Executive Director. “It has never been more important for our industry to be an active participant in the shaping of legislation that directly impacts the way corn and soybean farmers operate, and it’s through our membership base that we can make this happen.”