The Billings Outpost

Farmers at fiscal cliff

By DEBORAH COURSON SMITH - Big Sky Connection...

HELENA – Months ago, farmers were the first to see what’s over the so-called fiscal cliff of budget cuts and tax hikes. That’s when the Farm Bill expired, leaving many agriculture programs without funding, including conservation titles, rural development and beginning farmer initiatives. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says there will be no new Farm Bill until sometime next year. 

Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs, says, however, that Congress really needs to address the problems that Farm Bill “limbo” has caused. 

“Congress will need to at least pass an extension of the Farm Bill before it goes home, he said, “and even in the extension there are going to be important decisions about the pie gets divided, about how the federal government invests in rural America.”

Hassebrook predicts there will be reductions in spending in the new Farm Bill, but he says he hopes they will be targeted in ways that don’t harm mom-and-pop operations.

“By capping farm payments and crop insurance premium subsidies to mega-farms, subsidies that essentially subsidize them to drive smaller operations out of business. And secondly, it can cut by reducing crop insurance subsidies to folks who are tearing up marginal grasslands.”

He says the failure to pass a Farm Bill has created uncertainty for rural communities, especially with the lapse in rural economic development components in the bill.

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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