NAWG Second Vice President Erik Younggren testified Thursday to key House Members on wheat growers’ experiences with 2008 Farm Bill programs and the process the Association will go through to set 2012 Farm Bill priorities.
Younggren, a wheat producer from Hallock, Minn., joined growers from organizations representing other major commodities at a hearing held by the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.
In his statement, he offered details about wheat growers’ experiences with crop insurance, the direct payment program, ACRE and SURE. He also pointed out areas of improvement wheat growers have identified for each of these programs and discussed concerns about the increasing complexity of the farm safety net and the budget baseline challenges Members will face when writing the 2012 bill.
Younggren also revealed some initial findings from a survey of NAWG members done this spring to solicit feedback on existing and future farm policy options.
Overall, 558 survey responses were collected in the surveying process, with 90 percent of respondents identifying themselves as growers and 65 percent identifying wheat as their primary crop. When asked to rate the effectiveness of the current farm bill in providing a safety net for their farms, survey respondents answered in a near bell curve, with a slight bias toward less effective than more effective.
Younggren described the task in front of the NAWG Board of Directors at this point as not unlike one faced by a farmer with reliable but aging equipment.
“Compare our current farm policy with a 14-year-old combine that has accumulated about 2,800 hours of use,” he told Members of the Subcommittee. “We’re familiar with and appreciate the general predictability of the overall system, despite the glitches that come with age and known limitations…
“The question facing growers now with respect to farm policy is this: should our energies be directed toward further tweaking and improving the current structure of farm policy considering the ‘age’ and known challenges associated with it? Or is there a newer model – a next generation safety net – available that could better achieve our risk management goals in a simpler, more cost-effective manner?”
Younggren’s testimony was the first formal testimony NAWG leadership has given on the 2012 Farm Bill, though wheat growers from NAWG-affiliated state wheat organizations testified earlier at field hearings in South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming and Idaho.
Younggren’s written testimony, which includes more detailed information from the NAWG survey, is available in full at http://www.wheatworld.org/wp-content/uploads/fb-younggren-testimony-to-house-subcommittee-20100624.pdf.