FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 8, 2017
CONTACT: Phillip Hayes, 202-271-5734 (cell)
From the International Sweetener Symposium:
SAN DIEGO — Times are tough in rural America, but farmers are poised to weather the storm and are not over-leveraged like they were in the farm crisis of the 1980s, the senior director of CoBank said today during the sugar industry’s annual convention.
“We are in the fourth year of falling farm incomes…but agriculture is in a good position to handle the volatility,” Terry Barr explained. “The biggest challenges now are the range of uncertainties farmers will have to deal with.”
Barr specifically pointed to trade and farm policy uncertainties and increasing interest rates.
“It’s important to keep some key ingredients of the farm safety net during this transition period,” he said of the current debate in Congress over the 2018 Farm Bill.
For example, risk management tools like crop insurance and strong commodity policies like America’s no-cost sugar policy are essential in giving lenders confidence to extend needed capital to farmers and ranchers.
Weakening these policies, Barr said, would be particularly tough on young and beginning farmers who do not have the liquid assets of their older, more established colleagues. Bankers and their agricultural customers must work together to educate Congress during these times and promote strong farm and trade policies.
Barr also stressed the importance of infrastructure development in rural America, noting that today’s farmers and ranchers must compete on a global stage and need help in getting their products to market.
“Any time we start to talk about infrastructure investment, it’s going to be critically important that we include a rural component,” he concluded. “And it must go beyond roads and bridges and locks and dams…it must address broadband, water systems, rural power, and all the things that support the rural fabric of our country.”