WASHINGTON — Members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee are considering how to help farmers struggling with rising costs for fertilizer, fuel, seeds and chemicals — the unfortunate harvest of the war in Ukraine, strains on the global supply system, inflation and severe weather.
A panel of the committee heard from agricultural economists Thursday, as lawmakers debate how to structure the federal safety net in the next farm bill, due when current programs expire in 2023.
The debate comes as traditional corn, soy and wheat farmers straddle both sides of inflation and the economic effects from the war in Ukraine. They’re seeing both huge increases in prices for their crops and soaring costs for everything they have to purchase to plant them.
“Since 2018, when the last farm bill was written, farmers have experienced the economic impacts of a trade war with China, marketing and supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, historic weather events and now extreme volatility in commodity and input markets,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos, an Illinois Democrat and the chairwoman of the subcommittee that oversees farm commodities.
“This all has implications for the next farm bill,” Bustos added.
Rep. Glenn Thompson, a Pennsylvania Republican, said he wants to pay special consideration to the margins for farmers as members work on the next farm bill. Thompson is the top Republican on the Agriculture Committee and could helm the farm bill process if Republicans take control of the House.
“The bottom line is that agriculture is a business, and at the end of the day, it is not what you bring in but the margin you are left with,” said Thompson. “I have tremendous concerns with where we are headed right now.”
Holes in the safety net
The farm bill includes long-standing safety net programs that offer some risk protection and financial support to American farmers.
That includes crop insurance and farm commodity programs, which pay farmers if crop prices drop. But the programs don’t account for the current challenge for farmers of rising costs for fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, and seeds.
Economists suggested lawmakers consider pilot programs geared to aid farmers struggling in those margins. Read more