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Farm proposal a good start

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Clinton’s administration’s budget proposal to strengthen the farm safety net is a good starting point but more will be needed to fully address the depth of the farm crisis, including additional emergency funding in 2000, said the National Farmers Union(NFU).

The proposal, released Feb. 2, earmarks an additional $11 billion over two years to provide income assistance, expand conservation programs, improve risk management and expand economic opportunities in rural areas. “The administration’s budget proposal is a place to start, but more will be needed to turn the farm economy around,” said NFU President Leland Swenson. “For two years, Congress has used a band aid approach to deal with the farm crisis and has neglected the underlying structural flaws in the farm program. We will not see a true recovery in rural America without a substantial commitment of resources and significant policy changes.”

NFU has urged Congress to implement an adequate counter-cyclical farm safety net that is equitable to all producers, regardless of region or commodity. The group also has called for higher loan rates, improved marketing tools, such as a limited farmer-owned grain reserve, and expanded conservation programs, including a short-term conservation diversion. NFU is also seeking policy changes to address planting distortions caused by flaws in Freedom to Farm.

The organization added that any improvements Congress makes to the farm program in 2000 may come too late to assist farmers and ranchers, and that additional short-term funds will likely be needed.

“We urge Congress to build on the administration’s proposal in crafting an adequate response to the farm crisis,” said Swenson. “We look forward to working with the administration and Congress to craft a farm program that gives family farmers and ranchers the opportunity to receive a fair price from the market, not from government programs.”