Farm Bill forum set for today

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In anticipation of the 2012 Farm Bill, U.S. Rep. Martha Roby will host a Farm Bill listening forum jointly with Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan from 3 to 5 p.m. today at Cattleman Park.

The forum agenda will include farmers from Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District who will speak about relevant agriculture issues.

The House Agriculture Committee maintains the responsibility of writing the Farm Bill in the House of Representatives and will begin to hold hearings and discussions on the various titles in the upcoming months.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

As a member of the committee, it is vital for Roby to hear from Alabama farmers about their thoughts for the upcoming Farm Bill.

The probable top debate for the 2012 Farm Bill will be whether government support programs are being used reasonsibly and effectively, said Jeff Knotts, Pike County executive director of the Farm Service Agency

“All farmers, landowners and producers could benefit from the listening forum because the Farm Bill impacts who can farm, how they can farm and the types of food that can be grown.” Knotts said.

“The Forum will offer comments on ideas and suggestions for the 2012 Farm Bill. Since cuts are anticipated in an effort to balance the budget, we will hear about some of the things that could be done to try and save money in the next farm bill.”

As farmers, producers and landowners plan for their future, having knowledge of what the 2012 Farm Bill could include will be helpful as they look ahead.

“If the bill includes cuts in the subsidy programs, that will have a great impact,” Knotts said. “It could include termination of the direct counter-cyclical payments for farms with bases on them. These payments are made directly to the producers or landowners on annual bases built years ago. The program could be on the chopping block.”

Knotts said CC payments could range from $50 to $10,000 annually.

“Without those guarantees, farmers and landowners would have to consider their future in agriculture,” Knotts said. “With the cost of fuel and fertilizer at a high and unseasonable weather, it’s real important for farmers to be aware of what changes the 2012 Farm Bill could bring.”

Farming not only feeds Alabama, it feeds the world and Knotts said the number of farmers in America continues to decline.

“Here in Pike County, we have only five or six young farmers and, by that, I mean farmers under the age of 50,” he said. “As the older farmers are coming to the end of their careers, there’s almost no one to replace them. If a young person’s family is already in farming, he or she might consider giving it a try. But, if you have to go out and buy equipment and rent land, there’s just no way to make a profit in farming.”

The public is invited to attend the 2012 Farm Bill listening forum on Thursday. “Farming does feed Alabama so what happens with the 2012 Farm Bill is a matter of concern for everyone, not just farmers,” Knotts said.

This will be the first of a series of opportunities for citizens of the 2nd District to inform Roby of the programs important to them.