TORRINGTON, WYO. – Action mounted by farmers and ranchers over the next few weeks will help determine the profitability–and the stability–of American agriculture over the next few years, a top economist for the National Farmers Union (NFU) told a contingent of farmers and ranchers at a meeting held here Thursday.
Jim Miller, chief economist for the National Farmers Union, told a gathering of Wyoming producers that the provisions of the next long-term farm bill will largely be finalized in the U.S. House and Senate before Congress adjourns this year. “Regardless of which farm bill they support, if farmers are not vocal, the farm bill will happen to them, not for them,” said Miller.
Miller’s comments came during a Farm Bill Forum, sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. The four-hour forum drew a strong turnout of producers during one of the busiest farming seasons of the year. U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-WY, participated in the forum via teleconference hookup, and told the participants that the next Farm Bill must appropriately direct federal support to “the neediest of producers, the family ranchers and farmers.”
“Wyoming depends upon its family farms and ranchers. We need to find ways to keep them profitable,” Enzi said. He noted that, in addition to commodity support programs, the provisions of the next long-term farm bill will cast the mold for rural development policies, resource conservation programs, and other areas important to agricultural producers.
A panel discussion, moderated by Dave Carter, President of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and featuring Lois VanMark, Wyoming State FSA Director, and Ken Macy, from the Wyoming State Ag Commission, echoed Senator Enzi’s concern with the profitability of Wyoming agriculture.
NFU’s Miller outlined just how farm policy dictates producer profitability. Miller discussed both the recent emergency spending package and the farm bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee.
“The emergency assistance package signed by President Bush will effectively amount to eighty-five percent of the support provided last year,” said Miller. “This will have an effect on producers already suffering from high fuel costs and low prices.”
Miller warned the audience that the House Agriculture Committee’s farm bill is nothing more than a continuation of ‘Freedom to Farm.’ “The difference is that there is more money thrown into the program,” said Miller. “Otherwise this farm bill will continue to favor the landowner and the largest farms.”
The Farmers Union proposal, in contrast to the House Ag Committee’s version, would help farmers earn more money from the marketplace by raising the loan rates and establishing reserve programs to manage supply.
Torrington sponsors of the meeting included Pickerel’s Food Pride, Pinnacle Bank, Barkman Roofing, Platte Valley National Bank and Wyoming Newspapers. Wheatland sponsors included Brown Co. Farm Equipment and Wheatland Co-op Assn.
Information on the farm bill can be found at www.nfu.org.