If the 2012 Farm Bill were a tractor, you might saying it's idling in the yard right now.
Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) held a hearing on the 2012 Farm Bill in Amenia, N.D., Thursday, to listen to what farmers and livestock producers have to say about farm policy. It's the 10th such hearing that the Rep. Peterson, chairman of the House Ag Committee, has held this spring and summer.
Held in Bill Hejl's farm shop, which had oil stains on the floor and buckets of bolts stacked next against the wall, was a decidedly a low-key affair.
About 70 farmers and industry members showed up to hear was the congressmen and representatives of commodity groups had to say.
Most presenters seemed to like the current farm program, but they said that like a tractor it needed a little more fine-tuning to do the heavy work of feeding the nation and protecting farmers from the ravages of markets and weather over the next seven years.
One thing seemed clear, however. Direct farm program payments may be on the chopping block.
They've been a lightning rod for criticism of the farm program. It's tough to defend direct farm payments when farm income is high, Peterson said.
"Given all the problems," farmers may be better off if the money were redirected to crop and revenue insurance programs, he said.
Peterson said he would like to get crop insurance coverage up to the 85% level, extend it to all crops and improve livestock insurance.
Several farmers and stockgrowers who testified at the hearing agreed that improving crop insurance and revenue assurance programs, such as ACRE, would help them manage risk.
They also recommended making programs simpler.
Brad Tykeson, Portland, N.D., representing the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, warned that farm programs can't be cut too much or they'll become irrelevant, especially to young farmers.
He said he has a tough time now convincing his 25- and 21-year-old sons that they should be in the farm program.
They don't see many benefits, given the restrictions the bill imposes on what they can do to improve their land.
"They'd just as soon walk away," he said.
At the end of the two hour hearing, Rep. Pomeroy congratulated farmers on their testimony.
"I learned more hearing here in this shop than at 1300 Longworth," he said. That's the address of the House Office Building in Washington, D.C.
You can add your view on farm policy to the House Ag Committee's record by going HERE.