Fact: 97% of US farms are still family-owned and 88% of those make less than $350,000 in gross cash income. What the government chooses to roll into a new Farm Bill will impact many Americans whose livelihood depends on agriculture. The current Farm Bill is set to expire in September of this year.
The truth is though it's called a farm bill, 80% of it is actually related to food and nutrition, including the Food Stamp program and other assistance. That's where the water can get muddy for those interested in aiding agriculture, but unsure how to address these social issues. Jack Irvin, Senior Director of State and National Policy for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation feels crop insurance assitance and tax reform need to be at the forefront of discussions regarding this bill. "The subsidies provided by the government for crop insurance have been a safety net for farmers that provides some peace of mind as they cover the increasing costs of inputs." In 1988, when many farmers suffered financial burdens from high interest rates and low crop prices, only 25% had crop insurance. By the goverment providing a subsidy to aid farmers in obtaining coverage, 77% of corn and soybeans are now covered by crop insurance in the US. Irvin also feels we need a tax code that encourages transfer of the farm to the next generation. The proposed lower effective rates for farmers with the new bill would provide a 2-7% reduction in taxes paid depending on the amount of total income the household shows. This is good for the individual farmer, however the estate tax has doubled making it more difficult for the next generation to afford taking over the farm.
Overall, Irvin feels there's hope for passing a new Farm Bill due to the fact that in his opinion it's more of a "regional vs. a partisan bill". Many different states, regardless of their political affiliation, have lots of constituents involved and affected by agriculture. "They will work across the aisle to ensure their voters are satisfied with a bill that will hopefully provide good assurance for future farmers."