Freedom to Farm

April 25, 2000

April 25, 2000

Recently I was asked to testify before the House Ag Committee. The subject: the Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act, better known as Freedom to Farm. The hearing was well attended, chaired by House Ag Committee Chair Larry Combest and backed by Congressman Charlie Stenholm and several other farm state congressmen.

My message to them was simple. With the low farm prices that we have experienced, Freedom to Farm has been an easy target for criticism.

Yet, we should not forget:

  • The old policies of the 80's failed us. As we cut our crop acreage, other countries increased theirs.
  • Large land set asides reduce economic activity that hurts the economy in rural communities.
  • The old programs distorted crop production choices. No flexibility.

The critics of Freedom to Farm say we need a new counter cyclical, income support system. I would point out that the combination of marketing loans and loan deficiency payments did put an extra 6.9 billion dollars in our farmers pocketsNow that's real money. All on top of that the extra supplemental money, we haven't done so bad.

I think Freedom to Farm has worked reasonably well. Were still producing while other countries have cut 35M crop acres. My complaint is that Congress has not given farmers the trade opportunities that we need. No fast track.

Trade sanctions on food products continue to deprive American farmers of billions of dollars of exports. Will Congress pass PNTR for China? Let's hope.

If we are looking for farm policy failures, forget Freedom to Farm. Look at the missed trade opportunities. That was my message to the House Ag Committee.