Wrapping Up Our Conversation with NFU's Roger Johnson - Talking Farm Policy IssuesWed, 29 Jun 2016 23:24:13 CDT
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says the fundamental purpose of farm policy has always been to provide a safety net for agricultural producers during difficult times - whether it’s a natural disaster or a market collapse - but he’s concerned programs in the current farm bill are not designed to protect farmers during the current down market.
Johnson says net farm income has decreased by more than half in the last three years. He compares it to a salaried employee taking a 50 to 60 percent pay cut, but he says he would argue it’s worse for farmers.
“That net farm income isn’t just what farmers have to use for their family living, which would be sort of like what you’d use a salary for,” he says. “It’s also what they have to use to pay debt back with, and it’s what they have to use to make improvements in machinery, equipment, buying new assets, etc. to keep the farm operating into the future.”
Johnson admits agricultural producers had been experiencing a “boom period” where crop and livestock prices were very strong. He says when those prices go up, input costs - fertilizer, chemicals, seed - go up immediately behind the market, but they are much slower to decrease when the market price falls.
“Those costs get really sticky; they stay high for a long while, and then they grudgingly, gradually come down” he says. “That’s the painful process that we’re going through right now.”
Farmers are no strangers to this type of boom and bust cycle, but Johnson says this one is different.
“We’ve always had a farm bill that was sort of countercyclical in nature,” he says. “If we had too much production out there that was depressing prices, we had incentives for farmers to reduce production. We don’t have that anymore.”
With the approaching presidential and congressional elections in November, Johnson says there’s a level of uncertainty about what the next farm bill might look like.
“It’s a less predictable political environment than we’ve had in pretty much my lifetime of paying attention to this stuff,” he says.
Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays spoke with Johnson during his recent trip to Oklahoma. Click on the LISTEN BAR below to hear them talk more about farm policy and how the current political climate could impact the next farm bill.
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