Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said he supports efforts to improve federal farm programs but must be assured that any new legislation is fair to all Louisiana farmers.
“The Farm Bill, in its current form, is inequitable to Louisiana farmers as well as most farmers throughout the South,” Strain said. “It is not designed to act as a safety net for our main industries or types of farms.
“Rice is especially not treated well and our larger farmers are required to pay higher premiums for crop insurance compared to the rest of the country.
“Other commodities are being asked to take a 30 percent average reduction in program cuts. Louisiana rice growers will have to take a 65 percent reduction. This is unfair to rice growers, and under the bill as it is currently written, if rice farmers have a bad year, I’m afraid they won’t be able to recover and farm the following year.”
In 2011, 1058 Louisiana rice growers harvested nearly 2.8 billion pounds of rice on 417,000 acres. The gross farm value of the crop was $366 million, according to the LSU AgCenter agricultural summary.
Overall, Louisiana’s farming industry is worth more than $10.7 billion.
The current version of the Farm Bill reforms, eliminates and streamlines numerous programs, and will reduce the federal deficit by $23 billion. The proposed legislation creates a risk-based coverage program for farmers that complement crop insurance to protect against both price and yield losses.
The bill also includes an extension of the U.S. Sugar Program, which is vital to Louisiana sugarcane growers, and it creates a new risk management program called the Stacked Income Protection Plan or STAX, for cotton producers.
Strain said he is meeting with the state’s Congressional delegation and House Agriculture Committee and staff members in Washington, D.C. next week and is hopeful better protective measures for our farmers and ranchers will be incorporated into the bill when it is debated in the House of Representatives.
“The United States is embarking on a golden age of agriculture,” Strain said. “It is imperative that we do everything we can to create a market that gives American farmers a fair chance to compete.”