The Farm Bill 2001, Farming Future?

September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001

Livestock prices have been good. But grain and oilseed prices just can't seem to get up off the mat.

This week I had a chance to talk with the House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest, Congressman Charlie Stenholm. Cal Dooley, Senator Conrad Bums and others. I just don't see through the clouds that silver lining that we are looking for. Yes, anything can happen. A drought in South America, Europe or a new surprise surge in demand.

A lot of people are pinning their hopes on the next farm bill, but there is no real consensus on what it should be like. The House will be debating a new bill this month, but will the money be there to fund it? When will the Senate bill be written?

The congress doesn't have as much money to spend as they thought they would have. With a weakened economy, the tax revenue isn't flowing in at the anticipated rate. In the long run, I'm not so sure we can count on the federal government to always bail us out. With less money to spend and few farmers for the politicians to answer to, agriculture simply doesn't have the clout it once had. We need to look to the market.

An encouraging sign is the growing demand for ethanol. Trade promotion authority would help us build markets. Unfortunately, organized labor will want to hold TP A hostage over labor rules and environmental standards. If labor and environmental standards are written into President Bush's trade negotiating authority, the developing countries won't want to deal with us. They don't want some other country dictating to them. What would be our reaction if Europe tried to dictate minimum wage standards to us? Or universal health care? We wouldn't even talk to them.

These are confusing times. Fortunately the current farm bill goes for one more year. In the meantime, we can pray for drought in some other part of the world.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.