Although President Barack Obama signed Congress’ bill avoiding the fiscal cliff last week, local agriculture producers are still playing a guessing game for their future.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 extended the waiting period for definitive changes in many aspects of agriculture, which has been difficult for most who strive to plan several years ahead in production.
Among the bill's many facets is the extension of the 2008 Farm Bill, or The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. The extension will expire at the end of September if a new bill is not set in its place.
“Most people are probably unsurprised,” Troy Dumler with Kansas State Research and Extension, said of the extension. “The public is getting more and more frustrated with the lack of action in getting things resolved in Washington, D.C. I would guess farmers’ opinions are not that different.”
With the extension comes largely a short-term continuation of programs and funding as in the past.
“There’s still an amount of uncertainty in the air,” Dumler said. “The question still becomes, just like last year, what will this new Farm Bill mean for this year, if passed?”
Legislators will work toward what could be a third new agreement, with former Kansas Representative Tim Huelskamp and Senator Pat Roberts absent from leadership on their former ag committees.
“It could be very detrimental to the way the House bill is written for the state of Kansas,” said Derek Sawyer, local farmer and Kansas Farm Bureau representative. “It worries me.”
Uncertainty also surrounds the future of direct payments. Many agriculture producers would rather hold onto crop insurance than direct payments, but the uncertain future prevents them from making any definitive plans. Although current legislation would make payments to producers in October, a new Farm Bill could remove those funds.
“It’s nice to be able to plan,” Sawyer said, adding he is limited on the amount of income he can count on. “Even if it’s a small amount, it’s something we need to plan on. It’s the not knowing part of it that’s frustrating.”
Regardless of the outcome, local farmers must continue to move forward as they wait.
“In the mean time, I’ll continue to produce food, fuel land fiber and being efficient at the way we produce it,” Sawyer said. “In general, farmers are the optimistic kind. We'll keep doing what we do and deal with the effects that come.”