Next farm bill bound to impact both rural and urban Americans

As Congress writes the upcoming farm bill, Kansas farmers and their contemporaries across our country will tell you that maintaining an efficient, effective and affordable crop insurance system is their number one priority.

You?ll hear the same story throughout the Midwest and much of the country where agricultural producers believe federal crop insurance provides them with an effective risk management tool ? especially when they are facing losses beyond their control.

Federal crop insurance also reduces taxpayer risk, makes hedging possible to help relieve market volatility and it provides lenders with greater certainty that loans made to producers will be repaid.

Farmer/stockman like Keith Miller, Barton County, recently attended a farm bill hearing in Dodge City hosted by U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp. More than 200 people gathered in southwestern Kansas and Miller was one of 10 panelists who described what they would like to see in the next farm bill.

?Protection and enhancement of crop insurance programs ranks as the number one priority for a long list of farm organizations in the 2012 farm bill process,? Miller testified.

The longtime Kansas crop producers believes agriculture is a highly erratic industry influenced by a multitude of variables beyond the producer?s control. Farmers can use top quality seed, fertilizer, chemicals and the best management practices and still not be able to control the weather and the markets. Profit margins in the agricultural industry make it critical that farmers have access to a strong, viable and flexible risk management program.

The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee recently approved its version of the 2012 farm bill. Sen. Pat Roberts helped spearhead the bipartisan effort that helped strengthen and preserve the crop insurance program.

?I?m proud because we?ve worked hard to produce not the best possible bill, but the best bill possible under difficult circumstances,? Roberts says. ?We?ve performed our duty to taxpayers by cutting deficit spending while at the same time strengthening and preserving the programs so important to agriculture and rural America.?

The Senate plan reduces this nation?s debt by an estimated $23 billion. Few if any other committees in D.C. have made the same cuts during this difficult budget climate.

Even though the farm bill?s commodity title receives the lion?s share of news, the conservation section of the bill is equally important to the future of this nation. Everyone must do his/her share to protect and preserve this country?s natural resources or there will not be enough land to farm.

Conservation impacts everyone. We all eat, drink water and breathe air. With the ever increasing world population, keeping our food engine operating at peak performance has never been more essential.

While most believe the next farm bill is most important to agriculture, it impacts everyone in this country?rural and urban. There is a limited window of opportunity before the current farm bill legislation expires. It is key for work on this vital piece of legislation to continue. Each and every organization with a vested interest must continue to work to accomplish their priorities and move this 2012 farm bill forward.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.

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