Posted: Jun 5, 2012 5:55 PM by Erin Steuber
Updated: Jun 5, 2012 6:00 PM
The rice industry in Louisiana could be at risk if Congress passes a bill eliminating farm subsidies. KATC's Erin Steuber spoke with rice farmers who say the industry is already struggling and the bill would just add to that problem. The government subsidies help keep rice farmers in business. But without this guaranteed income, farmers fear they're at risk of losing their business.
"What farmers are worried about is, I don't have enough capitol. I don't have enough land of my own. I've got to rely on the banks, and if the bank won't loan me money, then I'm out of business whether I want to be or not," said Dr. Johnnie Saichuk, rice expert with LSU Ag Center.
But farmers may not be the only ones at risk. Entire economies could be affected if guaranteed income is taken away from these farmers
"That money that the farmers get as a payment never stays in their pocket, that turns around immediately," said Saichuk. "That's going to the banks, that's going to the tractor dealerships, that's going to the seed and fertilizer dealers. That money turns over so that's not money taken out of the hands of the farmer, as much as its taken out of the whole economy of the area."
The bill proposes to replace direct payment and subsidies with insurance programs, which farmers say doesn't work with rice.
Rice grows consistently unlike most crops, so price is the risk.
"Becasue we grow rice in a flooded condition we have a stable yield so we don't wanna insure yield, we wanna insure price," said Saichuk.
The number of acres of rice planted in louisiana has drastically decreased and farmers are worried if this bill passes even more farms are at risk.
"Once people leave farming they don't come back. And once you go into other crops you don't come back quickly," said rice farmer Jackie Loewer. "You loose your infrastructure, you loose you drive, you loose your milling facilities and it could decimate the industry."
Loewer says the bill does nothing for the industry. Farmers are fighting to get the support they need to stay in business.
"What we're looking for in the farm bill is for support that would guarantee a certain price, not a high price, but a minimum price," said Loewer. "Once we dip below, we'll have support so we can stay in business until the price recovers."
The bill will be debated this week on the Senate floor. If it passes subsidies would stop all together starting next year.