Responding to a new report challenging the validity of the farm safety net, National Farmers Union defended the importance of risk management programs for family farmers and ranchers facing severe financial stress during the farm economic downturn.
The report, released today by conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, claims agricultural producers are doing well financially and calls on Congress to phase out subsidies and end federal support for crop insurance.
“Farming can be a pretty thankless job, especially when you are a family who is financially struggling to keep producing food that feeds consumers around the world while a multi-million-dollar organization is trying to pull the plug on your life line,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “We see every Farm Bill cycle, groups with little connection to actual agriculture, like the Heritage Foundation, coming off the sidelines to attack farm programs that provide critically needed assistance for family farmers and ranchers. Many producers rely on those programs to continue farming through these tough economic times.”
Despite the report’s assertions, facts show that producers are not doing so well financially. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farm income has declined more than 40 percent since 2013, and farm jobs decreased by nearly 15 percent from 2001 to 2013. Most farm budgets today project serious losses on all the major commodities. Nor is the pain limited to producers, the ripple effect through the rural economy is chilling.
“When farm country hurts, that impact is felt both on both sides of the farm gate. Over the last couple years, we’ve seen thousands and thousands of layoffs in rural American business and manufacturing as an indirect result of the plummeting farm economy,” Johnson explained. “This isn’t just a callous attack on farmers and ranchers, this is an attack on rural American industries, jobs and communities.”
The report’s authors also questioned the need for government involvement in risk management for agricultural producers when other businesses don’t receive the same support. As Johnson explains, markets for agricultural products are different from other commodities because access to sufficient food is essential to human life.
“Farm programs are essential to the security and economic well-being of the American and global population. These programs, while never perfect, do ensure a level of stability in the food supply, which most Americans, unlike many other countries, are able to take for granted,” he added.
Earlier this year, Johnson testified before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, asking for protection of the safety net and acknowledging that some farm programs will need to be reformed to better benefit the producers they were intended to support.
“When it comes to improvements to food and farm policy programs, it should be our moral obligation, rather than our political impulse, that motivates change. We will continue to work on behalf of nearly 200,000 family farmers and ranchers to ensure they can continue to feed consumers at home and abroad,” Johnson concluded.
National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.