Farm Bill Opinions a Mixed Bag at Event

Apr 03, 2017
No need for name calling
GA-Farm Bill Opinions a Mixed Bag at Event-170331

WASHINGTON, DC – While most of Washington’s agriculture organizations and their memberships throughout rural America are optimistic about farm policy, the future of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the outlook of a strong safety net in the 2018 Farm Bill, recent gatherings here indicate that a resistance effort is brewing.

American University’s School of International Service hosted a day-long conference, “Farm Bill 2018: Policy, Politics, and Potential” earlier this week to highlight some of the lesser-seen angles surrounding the farm bill. Speakers included a broad range of academics, civil society leaders, producers, policy makers, and the general public on relevant research and rising issues for the next farm bill.

Kathleen Merrigan, former Deputy Secretary for USDA, drew attention to the agricultural dissenters during her opening remarks that kicked-off the conference. Merrigan encouraged those in attendance not to prejudge USDA Secretary-Designate Perdue. “I am troubled to see the 39,000 signatures on MoveOn.org requesting Senators to vote “nay” on Sonny Perdue,” she said.

Merrigan added, “If we wish to get anything accomplished in the next farm bill, it is important that those of us in the agriculture industry strive for some level of unity and understanding amongst one another in order to get a [farm bill] written and passed in a timely manner.”

Topics ranging from the Commodity Title through the Nutrition, Credit, and Research Titles were addressed. Panelists discussing commodity and credit programs laid out what they believed would be the key drivers for changes within the 2018 Farm Bill.

Carl Zulauf a professor emeritus in agricultural economics at The Ohio State University and contributor to the
Farmdoc Daily blog said, “I believe commodity prices, 2017 crop revenues, the state of U.S. exports, the federal budget, and President Trump’s agenda will be the determining factors for the next farm bill.”

Another somewhat contentious panel focused on international trade. “Land grant universities have shifted their focus from farmers and have invested their resources into large companies that supply inputs of production,” claimed Gerardo Otero of Simon Fraser University. “This kind of research in biotechnology has led to global surpluses and now farmers are facing a qualitative issue rather than a quantitative issue. Farmers are producing too many calories and too little nutrition which is causing obesity in developing countries, furthering their struggles to keep up with the modernized world.”

There was no shortage of opposing viewpoints but ultimately the panels agreed that a unified front will be required to move a strong farm bill forward in 2018.