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President Obama's signature on national farm bill brings security, stability to Kentucky farmers

Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) leadership applauded the final passage of a new five-year farm bill, signed officially into law today by President Barack Obama. This act firmly establishes a comprehensive farm policy that gives a safety net to farmers in Kentucky and across the nation as they work to provide a safe and affordable food supply.

The creation of the bipartisan farm bill began in the fall of 2011, but it proved to be a long and difficult process for the House and the Senate to find an agreeable middle ground. Yet Farm Bureau and other agricultural groups pushed hard for Congress to act even though the farm economy was functioning well at the time and there were no pressing problems to correct. This effort was made to ensure that farm families can operate under some measure of stability, with policies and programs that lay the groundwork for future success, and because weather conditions and farm economies won’t always remain solid as they appear today.

“Our new farm bill is unlike many of its predecessors in that it is geared more toward the long-term than the present,” said Mark Haney, president of KFB. “One aspect is with our budget deficit. Everyone is praising – and rightfully so – the long-term budget savings of an estimated $23 billion. But while addressing budget concerns, the new farm bill also meets the most crucial standards – providing an economic safety net plus the resources to help farmers continue to feed our citizens and many others throughout the world.”

For agriculture interests and consumers alike, there are many favorable aspects within the new farm bill. It is centered on economic stability for those who raise the basic food staples for the world marketplace (corn, wheat, soybeans, rice) and yet it also expands or creates new programs to assist producers of livestock, fruits, vegetables and organics. It is historic legislation for cattle producers because it gives permanent status to several livestock assistance programs. It finds a middle ground for dairy, which from a policy standpoint is the most complex segment of the agriculture industry. It also expands programs that offer training and access to capital for small businesses and beginning farmers.

The new farm bill additionally addresses many concerns tied to helping farmers in the United States produce more with less.

“It hopefully will move us in the right direction as producers face the enormous challenge of meeting soaring world demand for food and fiber,” said Haney.

The United Nations estimates that world food demand will increase by 50 percent by 2030.

“American farmers no doubt will be expected to meet much of that challenge,” said Haney.

The details of the farm bill show significant investments in soil and water conservation, farmland protection, rural development and research. It also contains numerous regulatory relief provisions benefitting agriculture and forestry. It consolidates conservation programs but not at a significant cost. There is a sizeable increase in funding for farmland preservation initiatives.

One provision of the farm bill that was quietly included is considered by many to be long overdue – the creation of a permanent subcommittee within the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct peer review of actions that would negatively impact agriculture. Another section tightens up the process involving multiple agency governance of pesticide use and the Endangered Species Act. That action is expected to lead to fewer government intrusions on farming.

“A farm bill is crucial for enabling farmers to effectively and efficiently manage their land, resources and businesses for the years ahead,” concluded Haney. “With the long-awaited passage of the 2014 act, we now have a playing field, so to speak, and, most importantly, a degree of stability.”

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