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American farmers worry about the fate of a new farm bill

Many farmers are concerned that Congress won't pass a new farm bill by September 30th when the current one runs out and several programs lose funding.
American farmers worry about the fate of a new farm bill
Posted at 1:28 PM, Aug 01, 2023

On a hot July afternoon, Jason Head gets into the front seat of his pickup truck and starts driving down a rural Kentucky highway. Rows of corn — nearly seven feet high — line the edges of the road, almost creating a canopy on either side of the blacktop.  It's part of 5,000 acres of farmland and Jason Head is responsible for each one.

As the manager for Long Vue Farm in Allensview, Kentucky, Jason Head is spending his days surveying the land. This family farm grows corn and soybeans. And so far this year, Head believes these crops are right on track for a banner fall harvest.

"It's just up to Mother Nature to help us finish strong," he said.

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For the most part, Mother Nature is in control now. But Jason and his crews are doing what they can to ward off insects and weeds.

Not every year is this good though. Back in 2012, a major drought hit Kentucky hard. Long Vue Farm's crops produced half of what they typically do, leaving Jason Head to fall back on crop insurance.

"We are one of the riskiest business ventures you can get into," he added.

Years like 2012 are part of the reason why Justin and millions of other farmers across the country are watching both their crops and Washington right now, as Congress is debating a new farm bill.

"We want to make sure the general public understands some of the issues we face, the challenges we have," Head said.

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Right now, House lawmakers say they are about five months behind in drafting a new farm bill — a delay that has many farmers across this country concerned.

"It certainly would be nice if we didn't have this rush at the end here," said Mike Stranz from the National Farmers Union. "There's a lot of moving parts in Congress when passing a law let alone one that is hundreds of pages long."

Stranz is concerned that Congress won't pass a new farm bill by Sept. 30 when the current one runs out. The effects of that are immediate, with some programs running out of funding.

The Farm Bill doesn't just impact farmers. It also covers funding from programs like SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as "Food Stamps." Other conservation programs would also be impacted.

The bill also provides premium subsidies to farmers through federal crop insurance. That's another reason farmers are hoping politicians in Washington can put aside their differences and get a bill passed.

"Farmers need the certainty to know what programs will be available or unavailable," Stranz said.

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