Something for everyone; U.S. Agriculture Secretary hosts town hall in Lubbock
The High Plains' agriculture sector had a rare opportunity to talk directly with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today (Jun. 15) when he hosted a town hall meeting at the Museum of Texas Tech University in Lubbock. High on the agenda was a review of the new farm bill, specifically called the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013.
Vilsack stressed that the highly-debated legislation was really a food, farm and jobs bill. "It's important for the country to realize this bill has something for everyone," he said. The bill, he said, addresses issues related to credit, conservation and creating a safety net for farmers.
Part of the morning meeting focused on crop insurance. "You can be the best farmer, you can do everything right, and in this business you can be perfect and end up with absolutely nothing," Vilsack said. More than 200 attended the event.
"Having Secretary Vilsack at Texas Tech is an honor, especially when congress is trying to get a five-year farm bill passed," said Michael Galyean, dean of Tech's College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.Earlier this week the Senate passed a five-year, half-trillion-dollar farm bill that expands government subsidies for crop insurance, rice and peanuts, while making small cuts to food stamps.
The legislation, which costs almost $100 billion annually, would also eliminate subsidies that are paid to farmers whether they farm or not. All told, it would save about $2.4 billion a year on the farm and nutrition programs, including across-the-board cuts that took effect earlier this year. Currently the government pays for an average 62 percent of crop insurance premiums and also subsidizes the companies that sell the insurance.
The overall bill expands crop insurance for many crops and also creates a program to compensate farmers for smaller, or "shallow," revenue losses before the paid insurance kicks in. Several industry experts have noted that the crop insurance expansion is likely to benefit Midwestern corn and soybean farmers, who use crop insurance more than other farmers. The bill would also boost subsidies for Southern rice and peanut farmers, lowering the threshold for those farms to receive government help.
Written by Norman Martin
CONTACT: Michael Galyean, Dean, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2808 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor's Note: The farm bill was not passed by the House since the posting of this story