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Rice grower hopes Senate improves House farm bill

Tim Supak grows rice in Jackson County, Texas, near Francitas. He'll make a fair crop this year, at least close to his average of 6300 pounds per acre.

“The first crop did well,” he says. “The second is about average. Dry weather hit after we harvested the first time and some fields were hurt by moisture stress.”

Even a better than average harvest would leave him very little profit, however, and he hopes to see something in the next farm bill that will give him a better chance of making money with rice.

“I'm not happy with the bill the House passed,” he says, “and I don't understand why other farmers would support it.”

Supak objects to continuation of low payment levels and an inability to update yields to reflect current production.

“The House bill doesn't allow us to update yields,” he says. ‘If it did that, it could be a good program. With the current proposal, I'm stuck at a 4,000 pound per acre yield average, the level that was established from 1980 through 1983.”

Yields now run considerably higher, but Supak can't collect support payments on them.

“With market prices as low as they are and with yields set at two tons, we get hurt,” he says. “The yield was established before we started farming this acreage and we have invested a good deal to get yields up. We're careful with expenses, but we try to give the land what it needs to make a good crop.”

He says corn growers also object to provisions in the House bill that prevent farmers from updating yields.

He's also concerned that landowners, not farmers, reap most of the benefits from the current program.

“Why would a landowner need an emergency payment? He doesn't have the risk that the man farming the land does. Most don't put expenses into the crop. Emergency payments should go directly to the farmer.

Supak leases all his rice acreage and would like to see more benefits directed to the farmer.

“Tenant farmers are nervous about this bill,” he says. “If it includes the option to receive payment without planting a crop, landowners could take the money and pull the land out of production. Those of us who lease acreage would be out of business.”

Supak says he's fortunate that his landowner understands the dilemma and works with him.

He says the crop he made this year will be a fair one, but was “expensive to produce. We had almost no rain from early May through harvest. We pumped from two wells continuously during the growing season to keep the crop flooded. Diesel fuel and fertilizer were both high.”

He hopes the Senate will understand that farmers are in dire straits and enact a law that helps keep them in business.

“I hope the Senate develops a better program and addresses some of these issues,” he says. “I just want a program that's fair.”

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