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Decatur County farmers react to farm bill

Published 12:44am Saturday, February 8, 2014

In what some are calling a rare bipartisan Senate vote, the long-awaited farm bill was finally passed after two years of sitting idle in legislation. Reviews are mixed from organizations and political parties on the bill, because the bill is so large and vast. For example, while farmers will be on the receiving end of expanding crop insurance programs, more than $8 billion in food stamp programs saw funding cuts.
For farmers, most of the extensively long bill will go into effect this year following the U.S. Presidential signature of approval Friday.
Decatur County farmers say they are pleased with crop insurance programs that will now be offered and price protections for their peanuts and cotton, but there are many unknowns when it comes to the new bill.
“We are going to have a totally new cotton program,” Andy Bell, a Decatur County farmer said. “it is more different than anything we have known or had before.”
Cotton farmers will be eligible for what Bell calls “insurance on top of insurance.” While farmers already pay privately for crop insurance, the new cotton program, or the Stacked Income Protection Plan, is a new type of insurance that will help cover price loss.
The bill is moving away from the traditional $5 billion-a-year subsidy programs and allowing crop insurance to take care of farmers in the case of drastic price drops in cotton.
“As far as peanuts go,” Bell said, “We are basically going to have the same peanut program and that has been good for agriculture and good for us in the area.”
The target price for a ton of peanuts is now $535 with the new farm bill, up $40 a ton more than last year at $495 a ton.
Under the Price Loss Coverage programs, farmers will be paid when commodity prices dip below this set “reference price.”  The reference price for wheat is $5.50 a bushel, corn is set for $3.70 per bushel and soybeans are set for $8.40 a bushel.
Cotton is the biggest crop in Decatur County, with peanuts in a close second.
“This is nothing detrimental to Decatur County,” Gerald Long, South Georgia vice president for the Georgia Farm Bureau said. “It will end up being better for some states than for others but that is the only way they could reach an agreement on this.”
Long said the bill’s classification as a farm bill is somewhat deceiving, as the bill is dedicated mostly to nutrition and food stamp programs. Roughly 20 percent of the bill, Long said, is focused on agriculture and conservation.
“People don’t realize this but with the farm bill, its not just subsidizing the farmers,” Long said. “It’s subsidizing us as consumers because we have a cheaper food source.”
And Bell noted the new bill serves more farmers than just those who work with row crops.
“If you had land and were farming pine trees — you could get some assistance with that if you needed to,” Bell said.

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