Abruptly changing the rules of the game on farmers with a tight credit environment could be "disastrous," Bob Stallman tells Senate committee

The 2012 farm bill must continue to provide the nation's farmers a dependable safety net, but given today's tight budget outlook, the legislation must also be fiscally responsible. The best way to do that is to maintain the basic funding structure and baseline of the 2008 farm bill, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman told members of the Senate Agriculture Committee today.

Stallman told the committee that an overriding farm bill priority for Farm Bureau is to maintain balance and benefits for all farm sectors.

"It can be tempting for a single interest organization to say Congress should allocate more funding for programs that benefit only its producers without worrying about the impact of that funding shift on other commodities," Stallman said. "Farm Bureau does not have that luxury and will seek balance for all producers."

Stallman said that Farm Bureau believes the 2012 farm bill should support a stable business environment critical to success in agriculture.

"Abruptly changing the rules of the game on farmers, particularly in a tight credit environment can be disastrous to a farmer or rancher's operation," Stallman said. "Our options will recognize the need for transition periods for major policy changes so that farmers and ranchers will have the opportunity to adjust their business models accordingly."

Another AFBF priority for the next farm bill is for Congress to work for the best possibly policy within budget constraints.

"Our members are greatly concerned about the deficit and want to be fiscally responsible in considering farm policy," Stallman said.

Stallman said the new farm bill also should consider and comply with recent world trade rulings, but the legislation "must not presuppose the outcome of the Doha Round of WTO negations, which are far from complete. To do so would reduce our negotiating leverage."

Farm Bureau supports the safety net provided by the 2008 farm bill, but Stallman said changes that eliminate gaps and redundancies will be needed in light of tighter federal budget projections.

He said the farm bill "Must ensure that America's farmers and ranchers have a practical safety net that provides protection against the unpredictability of the markets and weather and allows our farmers to continue to produce the safest, most abundant, least expensive food supply in the world."