We are about a third of the way home on the farm bill with the Senate passing their version and then it has to go to the House and so on. How do you feel about the Senate version?
“From a national perspective and me being the president of the National Association of the Departments of Agriculture, the things that we had targeted as priorities were treated very well. So from that perspective I am satisfied with it. The one thing we need is certainty and this does provide a measure of certainly.
One of the biggest issues will be SNAP. On one hand we have House members who think enough was not removed from the nutritional programs and on the other side they think there was too much removed so there will have to be a compromise on that. I think it points out the misnomer of calling this a farm bill when only 15% of this bill is actually about agriculture. A lot of people have an influence on how it will be written.
We took the approach this year that we were not going to advocate for everything but ot pick the things that were most important. One of those was the specialty crop grant program that is administered by the states. It is up from $55 millino to $70 million per year. This is very beneficial to our specialty crop organizations and research.
The Market Access Program that we have a lot of dealings with helps producers compete in foreign markets. There are multiple success stories, especially small start up companies, that have been able to use this program and get into the exportation of their product and grown. There is sustained funding for that.
But more important to the ag world is crop insurance. There is an expansion of that and it provides more coverage for fruit and vegetable farmers that maybe had not been there before. Crop insurance is much more desirable than an ad hoc disaster relief program. When you have insurance up front to manage risk and to minimize the problems with the disaster, then you don’t need the ad hoc relief programs and a farmer can actually go in to a lending institution and with crop insurance on their crop it will make sure they don’t have a total disaster and it helps. So its preferable. Ad hoc programs are 100% tax payer funded vs crop insurance that the farmers pay into. Ad hoc programs can take years after a disaster to develop.”