US farmers present their own Farm Bill

American farmers are looking to retain most of the support structures they already enjoy as a new Farm Bill for 2008 to 2013 takes shape.

A proposal issued this week by the American Farm Bureau Federation – the USA’s leading farm lobby – demands that the basic structure of the existing 2002 Farm Bill should not be altered.

That means that the full array of commodity supports – including countercyclical payments and loan deficiency payments – would continue to provide basic income support when market prices fall.

The AFBF’s draft Farm Bill also seeks “to be fiscally responsible, to benefit all sectors of agriculture and to respect US trade obligations”.

“America’s food supply is secure thanks to our productive farmers and the support they receive from the Farm Bill to even out the ups and downs inherent in agriculture,” said AFBF president Bob Stallman.

“The Farm Bureau proposal would continue that support in a balanced way, within the budget constraints we face and consistent with our international trade commitments.”

The AFBF also wants to bolster emergency aid in response to weather disasters, by establishing a county-based Standing Catastrophic Assistance programme.

And it wants to change the basis of some of the conservation programmes, with more emphasis on improving “working lands” rather than taking land out of production.

It opposes any move to introduce means testing and payment limitations into the farm support programmes.

The proposals were tabled to try and influence the agriculture committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives, which are both involved in drawing up draft Farm Bills that will form the basis of actual legislation.

These are expected in May, though it will not be until the autumn at the earliest that both bodies will agree a new Farm Bill and send it to President Bush for approval.

* For more on US farm policy see our special Global Assignment in this week’s FARMERS WEEKLY, out on Friday (27 April)