I’ll be testifying at a congressional hearing this week (April 13, 2016) concerning the state of the U.S. farm economy. I applaud the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management for holding this hearing.
The economic outlook is eye-opening:
- Net farm income—after expenses—for this year is forecast at $55 billion, less than half of the $123 billion in net farm income in 2013.
- Farmers’ and ranchers’ operating debt has grown, from $124 billion in 2012 to $165 billion today. · Meanwhile, the value of farmers’ financial assets has gone down, from about $134 billion in 2012 to a USDA forecast of less than $80 billion this year.
Farmers and ranchers are tightening their belts, and they’ll rely on the safety net and risk management programs in the farm bill, such as crop insurance, more than they have in years. While there isn’t much that anyone can do about the global supply and demand trends that have led us to where we are today, Congress should continue to support our vital farm programs.
Congress could also help farmers and ranchers cope with the downturn by reining in government regulations—things like the additional permitting costs farmers will face if the new Waters of the U.S. rule goes into full effect, as well as threats to farmers’ access to crop protection tools and modern agricultural technology. Congress also can help grow demand for U.S. farm exports by approving the Trans Pacific Partnership.
The last thing we need is a reduction in the federal commitment to sustain America’s production of food, fiber and energy, or more regulations that worsen the farm’s bottom line. I’ll make that point in this week’s congressional hearing, and the American Farm Bureau will continue to work for a policy environment that allows for a sustainable farm economy.