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Variety of Topics Discussed at Farmers

Earlier this week, 4th District Representative David Price hosted his annual farmers’ briefing. Yesterday, we heard from Doug O’Brian, Deputy Undersecretary of USDA’s Rural Development who was there with the Washington perspective on the pending farm bill. One of the hot topics was risk management, and O’Brien says that it’s generally accepted that direct and counter-cyclical payments will not be a part of the next farm bill:

“That is becoming particularly direct payments, conventional wisdom here in DC. Still, a big question mark is what that set of policies that will provide a safety net for farmers will look like. Crop insurance is certainly something people are looking to, and others are talking about utilizing some type of target price mechanism. Secretary Vilsack has made it clear that one of his main priorities around the farm bill is to make sure that farmers that type of safety net. Farming will always be inherently a risky business and we need to make sure to make the best use of these resources, and to do that farmers need to know that the federal government will be there in a sensible way to back-stop some those risks.”

The ACRE and SURE programs made their first appearance in the 2008 farm bill, and both are very unpopular with producers. O’Brien says that message has come through loud and clear:

“There was some talk about how some programs need to be improved, there was some talk about how the whole farm/risk management program simply does not work for farmers, and how important it is for congress to take a look at improving those programs, and make sure that there are some good risk/management tools in the tool box.”

O’Brien says that there were several other topics brought up, one of which involved young farmers:

“Something else we talked about quite a bit was beginning farmers. And the fact that for every farmer that is under 35, there are seven farmers that are over the age of 60. There’s a lot of acres that are going to be changing hands here in the next five to 10 years, and there’s a lot of interest, in many ways it’s the renaissance of interest in people who want to grow food, who want to be a part of the food system in a very real way. Even people that didn’t grow up on a farm, you know, typically, people who end up farming, almost exclusively, grew up on a farm, but there’s folks who are interested in participating in agriculture and we welcome that. I think it’s a great thing.”

Educating the public on where their food comes from was another topic discussed:

“Some thing that we do here, is that we talk about how important it is for consumers to have confidence in farmers and the food processing system, and the way to do that is to engage them in that system.”

Deputy Undersecretary of USDA’s Rural Development, Doug O’Brian.


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