One in eight people worldwide do not get enough food daily. In Missouri, 16 percent of people are food insecure. Northern Missouri, however, is a hotbed for agricultural activity, producing the highest amount of goods by value in the state. This series explores agricultural production in Northeast Missouri and its relation to the food chain both locally and beyond the state's borders.
A new Farm Bill is set to roll out in January 2018, with stakeholders in Missouri agriculture discussing what the future legislation could look like as it takes shape.
The U.S. Congress passed the Agriculture Act of 2014 — also known as the Farm Bill — and new legislation has been in the works for an updated farm bill for more than a year, said Marion County Farm Bureau President and Northeast Missouri farmer Joe Kendrick. He stressed that there are three key aspects from the previous Farm Bill that area ranchers and farmers hope to see continue or receive a boost in funding: crop insurance and livestock protection, access to low-interest funds for young farmers to purchase essential items, and maintaining funding for existing trade programs that allow farmers to reach new markets with their products.
Kendrick said the Missouri Farm Bureau will host a forum about the 2018 Farm Bill during their annual meeting in December at Tan-Tar-A in Osage Beach. He said the protections that are currently in place from the 2014 Farm Bill are vital for farmers to be able to operate successfully.
“It affects each of us,” Kendrick said. “There’s no way, the way things are, that we can really operate with out the crop insurance side of things.”
Marion County Farm Bureau Vice President and fellow farmer Ralph Griesbaum stressed that the safety net provided by crop insurance helps farmers and consumers alike — he said the protection allows farmers to plant crops during a year following total loss. He stressed that 90 percent of the insurance cost is covered by the premiums — the government essentially loans the funds for the federal safety net for six months before the premiums cover the amount.
The safety net supports farmers when the market prices decline — Griesbaum said corn prices are currently trading at $3.40 per bushel, which is essentially the same level seen in 1981 and 1982 but with 2017’s input costs.
Griesbaum said keeping producers in business through the safety net affects consumers by keeping the prices low for food — consumers in the United States spend about 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, while consumers in other nations paying anywhere from 25 percent to 40 and greater of their disposable income.
The 2014 Farm Bill, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) website, established programs for areas including nutrition, conservation, crop insurance and commodity programs responsive to varying market and weather conditions. Crop insurance and livestock protection replaced the 2008 Farm Bill’s direct payments to farmers, which provided funding regardless of whether a loss occurred.
Kendrick said he felt confident that the forthcoming 2018 bill would be beneficial to farmers in the state, noting it’s difficult to say how much funding will be set aside for each aspect of the bill. He said the top issue from the surveys he has seen and the discussions he’s engaged in so far is maintaining funding levels for crop insurance.
State Sen. Brian Munzlinger represents the 18th District and operates a farm in Lewis County. As Agriculture Committee Chairman, he has been watching the formation of the latest Farm Bill, and advocating for what farmers and ranchers need at the state level. He echoed Kendrick’s sentiment that it is vital to help beginning farmers — including members of the military returning from active duty — and he worked on a bill in the Missouri Senate designed to benefit beginning farmers. He said that crop insurance is particularly important for beginning farmers, and he said that paperwork and other processes needed to streamlined to help them join the industry.
“I realize how important it is to bring new people into ag,” Munzlinger said, noting the industry was very “capitol-intensive.”
Munzlinger said that sometimes state and federal entities can work together when tackling agriculture legislation. He said a joint federal/state plan provided price protection measures for Missouri dairy producers. Although the program didn’t please everyone, he said “a few tweaks” could expand the benefits to more farmers.
Kendrick said he felt excited to have two experienced representatives of Missouri agriculture — Missouri UDSA Jeff Case and USDA Farm Service Agency State Director for Missouri Richard Fordyce — working on agriculture-related issues in Washington, D.C. Griesbaum said he felt the same way, noting that details that are being discussed today could change completely before the bill is voted and passed. He said he expected a funding cut somewhere in the new farm bill, noting he felt there would be some give-and-take as the bill creation process moves forward between now and January.
“I am cautiously optimistic that we have an understanding in Washington of how important that agriculture is,” he said.
Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org