Iberia

Oct 29, 2013 7:13 PM by Akeam Ashford

Farmers Hold Out Hope for New Farm Bill

Louisiana farmers are still holding on to hope that Congress will pass a new Farm Bill before the year ends. Farmers rely on government help outlined in the bill for their livelihood, and, without a new bill, food prices could spike.

Members of the House of Representative and the Senate are scheduled to begin long-awaited talks on a new, five-year, roughly $500-billion Farm Bill, later this week.

In the bill, there are policies for farm subsidies, nutrition programs like SNAP -- commonly known as food-stamps -- and rural development projects.

The recent Farm Bill extension passed at the end of last year, expiring on Sept. 30.

The effects of not having a current bill won't be felt until Jan. 1, but, if Congress continues to hold out, the price of food, and other commodities could go up, kicking in 1290's era farm laws.

The House wants to cut roughly $39 billion from the food stamp program, while the Senate wants to cut $4 billion, according to Jim Simon with the American Sugar Cane Association. He's concerned about federal aid for farmers like him.

"From a sugar perspective, if we can just get the conference together and both agree to continue our current sugar program we'll be quite well," says Simon.

The sugar cane industry has been part of Louisiana history for 220 years. It provides three billion dollars annually and 17 thousand jobs in the state.

Without some sort of long term Farm legislation, farmer Todd Landry doesn't know if he'll have an income next year.

"It's the uncertainty, there's so much uncertainty in agriculture to start. We deal with mother nature, rain, too much rain, not enough rain, hurricanes, and then you have all these other issues with imports. Another level of uncertainty makes it even more difficult to operate," says Landry.

Farmers predict costs of crops for the upcoming year, going to their banks to borrow money for equipment and operation costs for the next year.

Without the bill, banks are hesitant to loan money.

"Every grower is going to go and have that heart to heart with his banker. He's going to say, 'What's going on with the farm bill? What's going to be your price this year? What's going to be your price next year?'" says Landry.

Landry says he doesn't want another extension. He feels it's a temporary fix.

In the last two years, Congress has focused on higher-profile priorities, like budget negotiations, health care and immigration reform.

If an agreement is reached, it will go to the President's desk for signature.

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