The U.S. Senate is set to take up the long overdue farm bill Monday.
The bill passed the U.S. House last week and if it makes it through the Senate, many Midwest farmers will be taking a close look at how they spread the risk of growing commodities. Sstarting immediately, direct payments would not be available to prop up the bottom line.
Direct payments – where farmers get a government check each year, regardless of how they’re doing financially – have been a highly controversial part of U.S. agricultural policy since the 1990s. Jonathan Coppess follows ag policy at the University of Illinois. He says that if the bill passes, farmers getting ready to plant this year will have to access other government support programs, including subsidized crop insurance.
“They’re going to have a pretty quick turnaround going into this crop year to kind of sort out what program they think provides the best tool for them in managing the risk they face, and how that plays out for the commodities they produce,” says Coppess.
The farm bill is estimated to cost taxpayers roughly $1 trillion over 10 years. Compared to that figure, the $8 billion cut to SNAP, food stamps, might seem like a drop in the bucket. But the savings could add up. Over 10 years they’re estimated to lower the deficit by about $16 billion.
Harvest Public Media, based at KCUR, is a collaborative public media project that reports on important agricultural issues in the Midwest. You can read more about the project on their website.