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Critical juncture for Farm Bill

Published 8:56pm Wednesday, June 12, 2013

U.S. senators Monday approved a new Farm Bill 66-27, sending it to the House for consideration — and at least one Suffolk farmer generally supports the changes.

“I’ve read a little bit about what they’re trying to do,” David Bosselman said. “It’s something that they needed to get done.”

The far-reaching and notoriously complex Farm Bill is re-debated every five years, and according to Bosselman, most spending it authorizes is not directly related to agriculture.

“A lot of that goes to supplementary programs — food stamps and a lot of different food programs,” Bosselman said.

“I don’t want to get too much into that, but a lot of that is being used and abused, spending a whole lot of money that don’t need to be.”

While the Senate bill makes some cuts to food stamps, it expands subsidies for crop insurance — the main thing Bosselman said he’s looking at.

“We are going to come out OK as long as they don’t chop crop insurance,” he said.

“It’s already expensive, and if they weren’t helping us with subsidies, it would be a bigger problem. (Plus) it costs the government a lot less than a disaster would cost it.”

Bosselman doesn’t see conservation measures that the Senate bill ties to insurance subsidies as a bad thing. “Most farmers are already doing that, anyway,” he said.

Noting commodity prices are holding up for the most part, Bosselman said he is mostly unconcerned over cuts to subsidies in the form of direct payments to farmers.

“Prices are historically high, especially in the grains,” he said. “As long as they don’t hit rock-bottom, the subsidies really aren’t needed.

“When that was written in, the rest of the country was doing well and farmers were taking a beating from low commodity prices.”

The bill approved by the Senate this week could be debated in the House as early as next week, according to reports.

Meanwhile, the House reportedly could again take up its own version of the Farm Bill, which it set aside prior to 2012’s presidential election, later in June.

Sen. Tim Kaine, of Virginia, stated that the Farm Bill’s passage in the Senate brings “Virginia’s agricultural community … one step closer to the certainty it deserves to plan for the future.”

The bill “balances important cost-cutting measures with smart, targeted investments while transitioning away from direct farm subsidies to an improved crop insurance model that places greater weight on conservation,” he stated.

Congressman Randy Forbes, whose House district includes Suffolk, said, “It is my hope that the House and the Senate will be able to act quickly to pass a fiscally responsible Farm Bill that cuts federal spending, while ensuring that our nation’s rich agricultural heritage is protected.

“Many of our key safety, nutrition and agricultural programs are essential to ensuring that the United States maintains a safe and plentiful food supply. I look forward to working in the House to support creative solutions that can cut government spending to ensure a fiscally responsible Farm Bill that meets the needs of our farmers.”

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