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 yesterday’s post)…Conservation programs received more attention and emphasis in the current farm bill. It makes sense to me that producers who are good stewards of the land receive some credit and incentives for participation in conservation programs. More importantly, I believe it is critical that financial resources are made available to producers for past conservation investments and crop rotations and those producers receive due recognition for not planting the whole farm to crops covered by traditional farm bill commodity programs. I fail to see the logic in promoting increased conservation practices and programs while Congress will not fully fund the programs.

Conservation incentives should be continued and expanded in the next farm bill. Increasing conservation programs is not only a financial benefit to me as a producer, but rewards society as a whole by improving the environment. Efforts must be made to improve program payment limitations, if future federal farm programs are to prioritize the interests of independent producers. The agriculture economy and rural America’s economic health is much better off with more producers, not just a handful of huge operations- as is the case currently.

One program authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill that producers and consumers have been denied is mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL). I am not sure how to convey to you my frustration that the current farm bill mandated COOL to be enacted by 2004 and yet it continues to be delayed at the behest of packers and processors that have a few members of Congress in their pocket. I am proud of the products that I produce on my farm and want consumers to be able to know where the products they buy in the grocery store come from—whether it is myself or another proud farmer from the United States or whether it is an imported product. I think the proof is there that COOL works, with seafood at my local grocery store now carrying a COOL label. Consumers are still buying, retailers are still selling and fishermen are still catching seafood. The sky didn’t fall when COOL went into effect for seafood and it won’t fall when it is implemented for other commodities.

The food purchase choice is still up to the consumer but at least it will be an informed choice with COOL. Survey after survey show both consumers and farmers want COOL to be implemented now. When was the last time you purchased a non-food item and were unable to determine where that item was manufactured? I want to know where the food I buy for my family comes from, and I resent the fact that the program to make that happen was approved but has still not been implemented. Country-of-origin labeling needs to be funded and implemented now and not further delayed.

I believe we need to cap federal agricultural subsidies to a certain size of farm including non-recourse loans; a strategic farmer-owned grain reserve should also be established. While the counter-cyclical program works in terms of providing a market safety-net for producers, it doesn’t address the cause of low market prices. Producers today are receiving the same market price for their commodities as they were 30 years ago, yet our cost of production is not the same as 30 years ago. The next farm bill should address the cause of low market prices, not just the symptom. In the current farm bill a savings of more than $13 billion was realized, but we can do better by utilizing common sense in farm bills. Seems to me, there are a bunch of entities farming the farmer and lobbying the government for cheap grain, which should not be continued in the next farm bill...

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

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

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