Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The single-crop advantage...

A commenter asked my views on the recent actions by NCGA delegates to kinda, sorta nudge toward lower subsidies.
After an extended discussion and failed attempts to change the language, NCGA delegates approved via voice vote that farm programs should look at options for shifting from direct payments to better risk-management tools. The policy read: "NCGA should investigate transitioning direct payments into programs that allow producers the ability to manage risk while assuring food security."
In a 52-48 percent vote, NCGA delegates had rejected a resolution Thursday that the group would "actively pursue transitioning direct-payment dollars into a revenue-based safety net that triggers only when a loss occurs."
Pushed by the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, delegates from several states then came together to craft the language that eventually passed. NCGA delegates acknowledged they were facing a balancing act of wanting to show farmers would like to help in cutting the federal deficit but other farm groups don't want to necessarily spell out specifics of where agriculture is willing to take cuts in the safety net.
On the floor, delegate Ken McCauley of Kansas, a former NCGA president, cautioned against changing the language reached in compromise. "The original amendment is what people in D.C. told us they were looking for," McCauley said. Later, he added, "This is important and I think this is the right message of where we need to go."
Shortly later, delegates also added a separate resolution stating that NCGA believes a safety net is a combination of risk-management tools available to producers with the ability to protect farmers against revenue losses due to circumstances beyond their control. [More]
As I replied, I had left on Friday, and thought the issue was dead, according to an account from some old friends (yeah, I know - all my friends are old now).

I think this is what first steps look like, and I note it seems it was a struggle just to get this vague language included. The reluctance to give up any payment is enormous, and I commend highly the effort and result. Good on ya, mates!

That said, it is instructive to note that corn (and perhaps soy) associations probably have the only shot at making these advances. Crimony, when corn prices are over $7, and a DCP is ~$25/A, how big a hit are we talking? When all you speak for is corn farmers you have significant latitude.

Meanwhile, Farm Bureau was tied in knots when the IA delegation attempted a similar policy nudge. Populated with growers of all kinds - especially cotton - AFBF is cemented in place on policy, I'm afraid. (Although, you'd think $200 cotton might soothe any payment loss).

It is crucial to keep in mind as well how much organization staffs have at risk when you begin talking about less government intervention. Part of their job justification is brings pieces of the Washington carcass back to members.

The result is while many want to be seen taking one for the team, we also want something in return (better safety nets, etc.) In fact, I would guess what we are looking for is something like a ethanol mandate that grants enormous economic benefits without line-item funding.

The troubling aspect for me is the assumption that what we get right now is deserved, so any cuts are sacrifices. This is baloney. We are the waste and abuse we rail against.

Nonetheless, all this does not take any credit away from the courageous and hopefully example-setting result by the NCGA.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The "voluntary"conservation "compliance" efforts on HEL are tied to the direct payments. Or, maybe there should only be direct payments on HEL?