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ARCHIVED  June 1, 1996

Local farmers ho-hum on effects of Farm Bill

Effects of the historic changes in the farm bill may not be felt for several years, and may never make much difference to many farmers along the

Northern Front Range.

The greatest changes to the Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act, passed by Congress April 5, involve separating government payments

to farmers from government controls on what and how much farmers plant.

For the next seven years, farmers who have contracted for crop price supports (in case of sharply falling crop prices) will receive declining payments

based on their past contracts.

With few exceptions, they will be free to plant any crops they choose on their land and will not face government demands to let a certain portion of

their land lie fallow.

Support prices on butter, powdered milk and cheese will be phased out. Amanda Dye, manager of Dyecrest Dairy in Fort Collins, said the changes for

dairies will be minimal. Support prices for dairy products – the level to which market prices must drop before government subsidies kick in – have

been so low since the Reagan Administration that they have been of no real value as a safety net, Dye said.

If the new version of the farm bill makes any difference to dairy farmers, Dye said, it will be in lowering feed prices.

“We are into a horrendous grain shortage,´ said Terry Dye, Dyecrest Dairy’s owner, now ranching in Sheridan, Wyo. “Anyone feeding cows is

getting beat up bloody.” He expects the removal of government restrictions on grain planting to ease the shortage.

Other provisions of the bill strengthen overseas marketing of U.S. grains and other agricultural products. Jim Miller, public information specialist at

the Colorado Department of Agriculture, said overseas marketing is where the farm bill will have the greatest effect.

“The aim is establishing the U.S. as an 800-pound gorilla in the world,” Miller said. European farm subsidies have been hard to compete with until

now.

“European farmers have eaten our lunch,” he said.

The premise behind the sweeping changes in the farm bill is that oversees markets for American-grown commodities such as corn, soy, wheat and

powdered milk are expanding. If U.S. farmers are free to meet that worldwide demand, they will benefit and the U.S. trade deficit will decline.

The bill’s opponents argued that the new free market approach will again lead to wild swings in commodities supplies and prices, as frequently

occurred before the original Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act.

Terry Dye agreed with the bill’s drafters that growing overseas markets will help balance out what he predicts will be a major grain surplus expected

when farmers are free to plant as much grain as they choose.

Another concern of the bill’s opposition was that those markets will go bust sooner or later, leaving U.S. farmers without a safety net. Government

farm loans, another safety net that has been in place since the 1930s, have been capped at 1995 levels. In addition, the government is moving away

from direct loans to farmers and toward government-guaranteed loans, such as those for college students.

Many farmers have been looking forward to the new freedom the bill gives them to decide what and how much to plant. Some farmers have said the

subsidies are of little economic importance anyway. Tim Kerbs, who plants sugar beets, pinto beans alfalfa and corn in Wellington, said that only

about half the land in the Kerbs Bros. farm was ever affected by government programs.

“We worked (government set-asides) into our rotation along with a lot of other considerations,” Kerbs said. “It wasn’t our main concern to get the

most out of government programs.”

The final bill extends many environmental protections that both the House and Senate version included, as well as leaving untouched the Food Stamp

Program and subsidies to tobacco and sugar growers.

In about four years, when government payments are significantly lower, if grain prices have dropped and if, as some predict, the boom in overseas

markets goes bust, Democrats who opposed the bill may well keep their promise to revisit the issue.

Effects of the historic changes in the farm bill may not be felt for several years, and may never make much difference to many farmers along the

Northern Front Range.

The greatest changes to the Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act, passed by Congress April 5, involve separating government payments

to farmers from government controls on what and how much farmers plant.

For the next seven years, farmers who have contracted for crop price supports (in case of sharply falling crop prices) will receive declining payments

based on their past contracts.

With few exceptions, they will be free to plant any crops they…

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