Farm Bill a Hot Topic at SC

The first ever Agribiz & Farm Expo got underway in Florence yesterday, and one of the first educational sessions was with Ted Etheridge, president and CEO of ARMTech Insurance based in Lubbock, TX. Etheridge spoke with Southern Farm Network’s Bob Midles on the impact the farm bill extension:

“The main impact is that it extended the 08 farm bill, predominant portions of the farm bill, and certainly those related to production agriculture. So farmers can know that they are putting crops in the ground spring ’13 with the protection of the farm bill which would include the direct payments, counter cyclical payments and so forth. Crop insurance is unaffected so our crop insurance program is exactly as it was in 2012 moving forward.”

Its business as usual, but clearly we know that it is just a band aid because there is another deadline coming. What do you see in terms of what was started with the new farm bill from 2012, carrying over to some new leaders coming in that will develop a replacement farm bill?

“The concepts that were there in the 2012 farm bill that didn’t get passed, they are still there. We believe that will be the beginning point of a 2013 farm bill. A lot of the challenges that prevented the 2012 farm bill from being passed into law are still there. In addition to that, we now have some additional budgetary challenges in front of us. It remains to be seen whether congress can pull together and pass a new farm bill before this extension expires at the end of September. It depends on who you are listening to, whether they feel like that’s a possibility or not, but look for the farm bill process to start up again sometime in the late spring and for us to begin with the template of the 2012 farm bill. And then there are a lot of other things happening in the government, certainly from a budget standpoint, so how those pressure direct the momentum of a new farm bill, in my opinion, will determine whether we will see a new farm bill put into place and successfully passed, probably with less money than we had in 2012, or whether we will see another extension of the 08 farm bill and continue to work on a new farm bill package.”

Is there anything from preventing them from extending the current one?

“I don’t think there is anything that would prevent them from continuing or having an extension and continuing that, other than we have these budgetary pressures. So when they passed the American Tax Relief Act in January, they were able to put that farm bill in there, and they needed to because failure to do so would have reverted the milk program back to the 1949 Crop Assurance Act, which had parity price support in it, so the price of milk would have sky rocketed. So it was necessary for them to do something, and the extension was the most sensible thing at the time. The problem will be if we have another extension. I don’t look for them to extend the farm bill with its current funding. So its likely that things such as direct payments would either be reduced or eliminated even under an extension. Every time that happens, the farm bill itself loses additional funding. So when we create a new farm bill, we are working with less money than we had prior to the extension. That is the concern of people in the ag industry with the extensions, is that it continues to chip away at our available funding.”

The combination of less money and more decision makers that are less familiar with our industry, what is your recommendation for those that are impacted by this bill, to do as we start to begin the discussion again for a new farm bill?

“My recommendation for anyone who is dependent upon or interested in production agriculture, is to keep an eye on the safety net. Being in the crop insurance industry, it has become the predominant safety net for production agriculture. I would encourage farmers to be very active and contact their local representatives and let them know what they need in terms of a farm safety net. “

To hear more of Etheridge’s comments, plus more coverage from the Agribiz & Farm Expo now going on in Florence,click here is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.