Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Iowa Farmers Union Farm Bill Hearing Testimony

STATEMENT OF CHRIS PETERSEN
PRESIDENT, IOWA FARMERS UNION
BEFORE THE U.S. SENATE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE
2002 FARM BILL


July 24, 2006 - Ankeny, Iowa

(Continued from previous posts – third in a series of three)…Not only should the future farm bill contain an energy title to build upon the progress already made in the renewable fuels arena, but it should also promote exploration of the unlimited potential that exists in alternative sources available to rural areas such as wind and solar energy, with localized ownership participation a must for rural economic benefit. Harnessing these renewable energy resources and mandating their increased usage is a step in the right direction of changing the paradigm of our current petroleum-dependent society.

Many rural parts of our country have struggled and continue to struggle due to devastating weather-related disasters. Some weather-related disasters are not dramatic enough to make headlines, but typically cause as much damage, if not more, than the disasters that do make the nightly news. Just because it is not in the news, doesn’t mean that devastation caused by multi-year droughts do not have a profound negative impact on rural communities and producers. Instead of making producers and their bankers rely upon the political winds in Washington for disaster relief, it makes more sense to include a permanent disaster program in the next farm bill that mitigates losses not covered by traditional crop insurance or other programs administered by USDA.

I encourage the committee to take a look at the big picture and historical data to quantify the huge negative economic impact non-competitive markets and devaluation of our commodities have on rural America’s economy. Government farm payments do not, and should not, make up for the loss of our markets -- forcing producers to depend on their mailbox as opposed to the marketplace for their living. I had to stop selling hogs to the packers, and quit selling feeder pigs to my neighbors because they had to sell out because the hog market was completely consolidated and fair markets compromised after 1998 price collapse. This is all evidence it’s time we implement a rural community revitalization program that fosters rural entrepreneurship and small businesses development to localize food production and consumption, which gives farmers more positive economic options.

A part of the competition question also involves trade and trade policy. What happens to my market price when our trade surplus turns into a trade deficit? How do I know if my competitors from importing countries are required to meet the same strict environmental and labor standards? Our current free trade agenda does nothing to level the playing field or provide opportunities for me to make a profit from the market. Trade is a good thing,

but will not work in the long run if fairness issues are not addressed during negotiations. Where are the World Trade Organization talks headed? I believe there is a lot of merit in extending the current farm bill until we see what direction trade talks take and what final agreements are hammered out.

As a country, we need to deal with a mounting federal budget deficit. USDA Secretary Mike Johanns says agriculture cannot be excluded from pitching in. I agree that the federal government needs to stop bleeding red ink, but who decided that rural America and farmers and ranchers have to jeopardize their futures to pay for a mess we did not create? I am upset that Congress cut $3 billion dollars from farm programs, which is 9 percent of all the cuts enacted, yet agricultural spending is less than 1 percent of all federal spending.

I hope some of my suggestions have been helpful or at least simulated some thought. Thank you for this opportunity to testify; I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree, johnc@cfra.org

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

7 Comments:

  • At 9:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    is the blow-up of the Doha round of trade talks going to slow down or speed up the farm bill debate?

     
  • At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The knuckelheads in the mainstream media say it will slow it down.

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/
    national/1153AP_WTO_Farm_Bill.html

     
  • At 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    does the fact that i mispelled knucklehead make me one?

     
  • At 6:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I personally think that if you are going to call the mainstream media "knuckelheads" you should just get a free pass...you may have mispelled it...but you are still right on! :)

     
  • At 12:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Regardless of how you spell it, it is not just the media, Farm Bureau, Farmers Union and just about every commodity group are using the WTO collapse to call for keeping the stupid, wasteful, ill-conceived farm bill that we have now. By keeping it, I mean they want to extend it, allowing more farms and rural communities to be sacrificed. Whatever happened to farm groups standing up for farmers? thank God for the Center for Rural Affairs.

     
  • At 8:54 PM, Blogger Book 'em said…

    I have to say, I think the desire of the fat cat farm groups to extend the farm bill is the result of the old "go with the devil you know" mentality, and a certain level of expertise at milking the system. First, they know they (and their rich supporters) could very well lose out under the new system and they are not all that anxious to have a big debate over commodity subsidies in general, let alone payment limitations. Going along with that is the fact that they are very good at maintaining influence (and making oodles of cash from that influence) under the current system, so like politicians with campaign finance reform, they hate any sort of change that might force them to learn some new tricks. Lastly, of course, huge processor like ADM and Cargill are dependent on cheap commodities and heaven forbid we would encourage production of any sort of foodstuff that would force them to modify their transportation and processing networks.

     
  • At 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think it is time to tell the Cotton Council and the Farm Bureau to stick it in their ear and declare that unless a farm bill is written that does not diminish rural communities and decimate family farmers then we would rather not have a farm bill at all. Perhaps a better way of saying it is that Representative and Senators that have fought for reforms in farm programs that would support family farmers and ranchers and rural communities should vote no on any farm bill that continues the destruction of rural America that have been brought on by the last two farm bills.

     

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