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Farm Service Agency rep talks about farm bill

Posted: Monday, Dec 10th, 2012

South Dakota Farm Service Agency Executive Officer Jamie White talks about the lack of a new farm bill at the Beadle County Democratic Forum on Thursday. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

HURON — As administrators of components of the farm bill await a resolution to the stalemate over a new law, it’s important to note that some programs expired more than a year ago while others are in permanent law.

Crop insurance, the most desired safety net for production agriculture, continues with or without a new farm bill, although the language could be revised in a new law.

“So crop insurance will be here if the fiscal cliff passes and we don’t have a farm bill,” said Jamie White, executive officer of the South Dakota Farm Service Agency.

White spoke Thursday at the Beadle County Democratic Forum. She filled in for scheduled speaker Craig Schaunaman, executive director of the FSA, who was called away to meetings in western South Dakota.

A farm bill has passed the Senate and the House Agriculture Committee has approved its own version. But the full House has yet to vote, and it is a growing concern in rural America as farmers must soon be making spring planting decisions.

In her role at FSA, White enjoys helping farmers and ranchers in South Dakota.

“When we talk farm bill, when we talk USDA, I am very passionate about the organization that I work for and the programs that we administer,” she said.

“I do feel that we play a vital role in serving South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers,” she said. “I feel we have a very good partnership with the state of South Dakota.”

Recent five-year farm bill packages are much more complicated than their predecessors and it takes longer to enact them. It’s not uncommon for Congress to pass legislation after the current bill has expired.

But if a new farm bill is not passed or an extension of current policy is not enacted, farm law would revert to the 1949 Act.

As for individual programs within the legislation, conservation components were extended through September 2014 as part of the 2012 appropriations bill. Existing conservation reserve program contracts are not impacted, but there can be no new signups.

CRP is a popular program and there are many CRP acres in Beadle County, especially in low-lying areas in the James River valley.

Livestock disaster assistance programs expired at the end of September 2011. They are in the bills passed by the Senate and House Agriculture Committee.

“Livestock folks do not have the same safety net available as a lot of the production agriculture folks do,” White said.

One of them is the livestock forage program.

“This year when we experienced the drought that we did in South Dakota during the summer months where we had counties that were in D2, D3 or D4 drought levels, had we had the LFP program we would have paid out payments in every county in the state,” she said.

Food safety programs are not reauthorized by the farm bill and most rural development programs are in permanent law.

Food stamps – which have been a major sticking point in negotiations – are also permanent law. However, there are disagreements on the appropriate level of cuts to the food stamp program.

Energy programs would end if the 2008 farm bill expires or a straight extension of it is enacted.

FSA is taking a precautionary, proactive approach and is being conservative in its spending in the event of budget cuts well into its new fiscal year.

But there is optimism that a deal can be worked out and a new farm bill enacted soon.

“We have been hopeful, but we haven’t seen anything thus far,” White said.

For the complete article see the 12-07-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 12-07-2012 paper.

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