The past couple of weeks have been challenging, gratifying, and enlightening for the agricultural community.
Challenging in that an 11th hour, secret deal struck as part of a budget package contained crippling cuts designed to gut the crop insurance system on which so many farmers depend. In other words, the five-year contract that Congress signed with rural America as part of the 2014 Farm Bill would have been ripped to shreds before its effects were ever really felt.
Gratifying in that farmers from coast to coast quickly joined forces to lock arms and fight back when attacks surfaced. First, in a herculean lobbying effort to effectively beat back crop insurance cuts. Then, in sending a clear signal to anti-farmer forces angling to reopen the Farm Bill to target U.S. sugar policy.
And enlightening in that it finally became crystal clear what agriculture’s critics are really up to.
Opponents of sugar policy, and crop insurance, and other farm policies are not interested in compromise or smart policy designed to help the whole. No, their agenda is to simply end farm policy, period.
And they will never be satisfied until the men and women who feed and clothe the country are left completely vulnerable to the whims of Mother Nature and volatile markets rocked by foreign subsidies.
That became painfully obvious with the introduction of the Assisting Family Farmers through Insurance Reform Measures (AFFIRM) Act, which would impose cuts eight times larger than the crippling ones farmers just fended off.
Essentially, AFFIRM would make it impossible for private companies to offer crop insurance and would make the tools used by farmers to manage weather and market risks unaffordable and unavailable. Not exactly “Assisting Family Farmers” as the bill’s cheery title would imply.
So who’s behind this out-of-touch AFFIRM proposal? Its sponsors include Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) – the exact same lawmakers leading attacks against U.S. sugar policy. And in the House, AFFIRM is being pushed by Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) – two vocal leaders in the effort to end U.S. sugar policy.
Not surprisingly, its cheerleaders include the Environmental Working Group and the rest of the anti-farmer Who’s Who club. You know, a lot of the same crowd that signs those “sugar reform” letters along with Big Candy.
The fire drills of recent days will not soon be forgotten in the ag world. It was a tough stretch, but it was a worthwhile exercise that revealed some valuable lessons.
Agriculture is strong and capable of great things when it sticks together. Its opponents are unreasonable and cannot be trusted. And from this day on, any attack on any part of the Farm Bill will be viewed as an attack on all.