Between record low prices and unpredictable whether disasters, it has been a hard year for U.S. wheat farmers. Farm Policy Facts – a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization – is a coalition of farmers and commodity groups created to educate Members of Congress and Americans about the importance of agriculture and its contribution to a strong and vibrant United States.
As part of its mission to educate policymakers, the media, and all interested parties involved in agricultural policy, Farm Policy Facts talked to the five officers of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) to get their take on how the bill could help farm communities across the nation.
This blog is a summarization of the Farm Policy Facts five-part series written by five officers of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG).
Our nation’s wheat farmers have had a difficult year enduring drought, a late spring blizzard, falling prices, and the lowest number of wheat acres under cultivation in U.S. history. These factors stress the importance of a farm safety net in the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill.
Farm Bill Needs Tweaks, Not Wholesale Change
Former NAWG President Gordon Stoner started harvesting 6,000 acres of durum wheat on his farm during the worst drought on record in northeastern Montana. In his interview, Stoner stated that the proposed federal budget is calling for a decrease in discounts and budget caps for the 2018 Farm Bill. Each title in the bill provides the means for farmers to continue farming in the United States. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides an urban link to the rural community, PLC and ARC provide aid when a major fiscal crisis occurs, and most importantly, crop insurance takes enough risk out of the business for continued farming.
Conservation is an Important Part of the Farm Bill
Due to the low price of wheat and unpredictable environmental conditions, conservation practices are necessary for farmers to bring costs down and to increase productivity. David Schemm, President of NAWG, describes the importance of expanding conservation practices, such as the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), to increase local caps on the number of allowed acres which will in turn provide more monetary incentives. Conservation is essential to farming and incentivized programs allow farmers to participate without negatively affecting their incomes.
Crop Insurance Makes Wheat Farming Possible
Jimmie Musick, Vice President of NAWG, discusses the importance of crop insurance with a personal reference regarding the below average wheat harvest from his family farm. Crop insurance is an indispensable policy with about 90 percent of the farmland in the U.S. being insured. It would be virtually impossible to keep a family in business without it, especially for young farmers.
Farm Bill Helps Small Businesses Reach Global Markets
As explained by Ben Scholz, Treasurer of NAWG, the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) are two vital parts of the Farm Bill that allow small agricultural businesses to build export markets overseas. Map provides cost-share assistance while FMD emphasizes long-term markets rather than products. Without these programs, there are no affordable methods for farmers to expand internationally. Although the world is not agriculture-oriented, NAWG is attempting to restore funding and prevent further cuts in both programs.
Farm Bill’s Research Investment Helps Farmers Succeed
Dave Milligan of NAWG emphasizes the value of research and technological development in agriculture. Research and development is necessary to increase the total acres under wheat production, manage diseases, and increase productivity. Due to the complexity of wheat, agricultural producers would benefit greatly from research funding which goes primarily to academic institutions.