A wide cross section of Indiana’s ag leadership gathered for a discussion of what Indiana farmers want in the new Farm Bill. With the likelihood that there will be no new funding for farm programs, some hard choices are going to have to be made. Sponsored by the Indiana Soybean Alliance and the Indiana corn Growers Association, the day long program focused on what policy priorities will best serve Indiana agriculture.
Angie Steinbarger, a corn and soybean producer from Edinburgh, said the industry has to come together and set priorities, “There are lots of things we would all like to have, but we need to focus on what will make agriculture strong for the next 4 years.” For Steinbarger, and most of those in attendance, keeping the crop insurance program intact is the top priority. She added that the perception by many in Washington that crop insurance is something farmers make money on is false, “I have never made money on crop insurance, it has actually cost me money.” But, she said, when the drought came in 2012, crop insurance is what helped save her farm.
Randy Kron, President of Indiana Farm Bureau, told the group that keeping crop insurance is the top Farm Bill goal for Farm Bureau. He warned that, without crop insurance, young and beginning farmers would not be able to get the financing they need to farm.
For Joe Steinkamp from Evansville, protecting funding for market development programs is priority number 2, “Sixty percent of U.S. soybeans get exported, so we need these market development funds to continue to drive our exports.” He added, especially with the defeat of the TPP trade agreement, the U.S. needs these programs to help develop new markets as part of new bilateral trade deals.
Funding for conservation programs came in third as a priority. There was a good deal of concern expressed that the CSP program was especially vulnerable to big cuts. All those who participated in the program agreed that agriculture needs to play defense when it comes to discussing the new Farm Bill.
Several in the audience expressed the need for agriculture to change its image on Capitol Hill. Alan Kemper, a corn and soybean grower in Tippecanoe County and former President of ASA and NCGA, said agriculture needs to focus on the message that it is the key to a safe and secure food supply.
Another issue that needs to be defended is inclusion of the nutrition program within the Farm Bill. Patrick Delaney, Director of Policy Communication with the American Soybean Association in Washington, said the only way a Farm Bill will pass is with a nutrition section included. He said the dynamics are different in Washington today and this Farm Bill process will be different than before. Delaney was not optimistic that a bill would see congressional action in 2017, but rather feels it will be 2018 before a new Farm Bill is written and passed.