Farming and ranching has been a way of life since the beginning of time, and from that broad history farmers and ranchers have been able to learn from past issues and even mistakes to become better and more efficient. While we made it through the holiday season and into 2013, let’s take one last look at the notable issues and topics from 2012.
The number one issue for Nebraska and the nation in 2012 was the drought. At the Bayer CropScience exhibit during the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, 73 percent of respondents to the daily survey noted climate and weather problems as the biggest challenge experienced on their farm this year. Nebraska farmers were especially hard hit, with Nebraska being one of the most affected states in the nation according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Farmers and ranchers faced sharply reduced yields across the board from corn, to soybeans, wheat and many forage crops that pushed market prices to record levels due to the drought. These commodity price increases drove production costs higher for the beef, pork, dairy and poultry operations.
Before we get started, let’s review the process of how a bill becomes a law with Schoolhouse Rock –
Dubbed the “Farm Bill,” this bill affects much more than just farming including extensive national impact through programs in nutrition ($772 billion), crop insurance ($91 billion), conservation ($64 billion), commodities ($63 billion) and other areas. While this issue remains tied-up in Washington, D.C., the Farm Bill became urgent when programs under the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 ended Sept. 30, as according to language in the 2008 Farm Bill, programs reverted back to 1938 and 1949 Farm Bill levels of funding and coverage for commodity programs, including crop insurance. This feature normally induces Congress to get its work done on a new farm bill in a timely fashion.
Prior to September, the senate approved its version of the new Farm Bill in June, with the House Agriculture Committee approving a different version in July. However, House leaders have failed to put either new version of the Farm Bill up to a vote referencing need for additional spending cuts. The continued stalling of the Farm Bill is especially frustrating as, believe it or not, the majority of Republicans and Democrats largely agree on the changes to be made.
With high costs of inputs such as seed and fertilizer to take care of the soil, farming is a risky business that has no other type of financial safety net. Crop insurance is federally regulated and current agricultural commodity programs support farmers through direct and counter-cyclical payments based both on production and market prices. While 62 percent of U.S. farms did not collect any crop insurance payments, crop insurance is major concern among farming and ranching families as experts expect the drought to continue into 2013.
Child Labor Issue
“The decision to withdraw this rule — including provisions to define the ‘parental exemption’ — was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms,” – Department of Labor
In a victory to sustaining the way of rural life, a proposed rule was withdrawn that would have applied labor laws to family farms. The U.S. Department of Labor cited public outcry as the reason for withdrawing the rule. The regulations within the proposed bill would have drastically impacted how children could be involved with and learn about the family farm. The rule would have dramatically changed what types of chores children under the age of 16 could perform on and around American farms and farming locations including grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions. It would have prohibited them from working with tobacco, operating almost all types of power-driven equipment and being employed to work with raw farm materials, including tasks such as detasseling corn.
Sadly, the drought and Farm Bill will continue to be issues moving into 2013. However, the noted take-away point from 2012 issues is the fact that when united, the rural and agriculture community’s voice will be heard.
Please continue to make your voice heard on issues into the new year!
— Kassi Williams is a proud farmer’s daughter growing up on a cow/calf and grain farm in Iowa. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University, majoring in both animal science and public relations. She has been involved with agriculture from birth, working in multiple facets of the industry including the USDA and Extension. Kassi relocated to Nebraska in 2010 to work for a marketing communications agency for a multitude of agriculture clients.