What started off two and half years ago as an attempt to craft a Farm Bill with bold deficit reductions in mind became the new North star of U.S. agriculture policy last week when President Obama signed The Agriculture Act of 2014 into law at Michigan State University.
The law marks a dramatic turning point in American farm policy, with the sun setting of the 18-year old system direct payments – which cost more than $4.5 billion annually – accompanied by a renewed emphasis and commitment to crop insurance.
“This is not your father’s Farm Bill,” said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow. “From now on, farmers will protect themselves from disaster with risk management programs like crop insurance,” she said. “Instead of getting a government check even in good times, farmers will pay an insurance bill every year and will only receive support from that insurance in years when they take a loss.”
The bill won immediate praise from national farm groups as soon as it emerged from the conference committee in late January. National Association of Wheat Growers President Bing Von Bergen said the bill “ strengthens crop insurance and allows growers the necessary safety net to keep a secure, affordable and healthy food supply.
The sorghum industry issued a statement underscoring their strong support for the bill and applauded the $24 billion it would save taxpayers. “This legislation meets [National Sorghum Producer’s] goals in providing farmers with a number of risk management tools, strengthening and protecting crop insurance, and including strong conservation and energy titles,” said Chairman J.B. Stewart.
The crop insurance industry applauded the years of hard work by both chambers and noted that it was looking forward to working with the Risk Management Agency on implementation of the law. “With one bold stroke of the pen, the President charted a new course for U.S. farm policy, sun-setting the policies of yesterday and putting greater emphasis on farmers’ use of crop insurance,” the industry noted in a nationally-released written statement.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted the bill “will allow the proud men and women who feed millions around the world to invest confidently in the future,” adding, “this legislation is important to the entire nation.”