Extending the Pain

February 5, 2008

ORLANDO, FL. (Feb. 5, 2008)—As bleak as the budget situation looks for the farm bill right now, “it doesn’t get any better beyond 2008,” a policy analyst with Informa Economics told sugarbeet farmers at their annual convention today.

A number of issues—from a shrinking budget baseline to a growing budget deficit, a slumping economy, increased spending on non-farm programs, and calls to make tax cuts permanent—will mean there’s less money to write a farm bill with next year and beyond, Jim Wiesemeyer told the group.

That’s why he explained that it was in growers’ best interest to finish the pending farm bill instead of settling for a one or two year extension of current law.

“Get it done,” Wiesemeyer said bluntly. “An extension makes no sense.”

He noted the reduction farmers are already seeing in their share of the farm bill as funds are shifted to different priorities, such as nutrition, conservation, and energy.

Unfortunately for farmers, he said, this trend will likely continue as the farm bill becomes more of a “food bill.”

Making matters worse, that food bill will be forced to compete in the near future with new health care priorities, economic stimulus proposals, war spending, and baby boomer’s social security checks for scarce federal dollars, he explained.

With the farm bill at an impasse for months over funding issues, some have suggested tabling the farm bill in favor of a temporary extension of the current bill. Growers across the country are reacting negatively to this suggestion.

“As farmers head into the fields for planting and make business planning decisions, we need long-term certainty, not a short-term band-aid,” said Steve Williams, a Minnesota farmer and president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association-the group that hosted Wiesemeyer.

“We have worked too hard and come too far for a new farm bill to throw in the towel now,” Williams concluded.