Waiting for the farm bill

By: Emi FitzGerald Email
By: Emi FitzGerald Email

GRAYSON COUNTY, TX -- Lawmakers in Washington have been deliberating a farm bill for more than a year, longer than in years past. The money provides a safety net for farmers.

So many conditions can affect crops like the wheat and corn. Frost or too much rain can wipe out a whole year's worth of work. That's why farmers depend on the federal farm bill, and other funding to stay afloat.

The wheat and cotton crops are already planted at this Grayson County farm. Today Jack Norman is spraying a specialized Round-Up on the corn, his 45th crop so far.

"You have good years, and you have bad years and you have to plan for that,” Norman says. “Good years you have to put some back aside to take care of those years that Mother Nature's not going to be kind to you."

One telling example is last summer. Rains for thirty days straight wiped out the wheat crops, so farmers rely on what they call safety nets to pay back loans.

"If we have a crop failure, or we have a short crop, or if there's some unknown disaster that happens generally the farm bill give the people who loan us money some sense of security," Norman says.

The last federal farm bill expired in September. Now lawmakers can't come to agreements, which means the program is stalled.

"A little bit of uneasiness on the bankers’ part and us not knowing what was going to happen," he says, describing the waiting process for the federal farm bill.

Norman's farm credit lines were renewed on the assumption the federal bill will have similar amounts of funding. He and most other farmers had to start planting last fall to insure their crops will be ready to harvest.

"It costs so much to produce agriculture these days,” says Robert “Bert” Darwin, executive director of the Farm Service Agency of Grayson County. “The price of diesel is so high, fertilizer is so high. The input costs are so much that generally you have to finance a lot of crops."

Norman is optimistic Texoma farmers will yield a good crop this year.

The last farm bill went from 2002 until 2007, but we're told by the time the bill expired the last time, the new one was already law. Farmers could decide if they wanted to stay with the previous bill or work under the new guidelines.

This time around there's no overlap. Lawmakers have until Friday to pass the bill, otherwise it's extended another year and farmers are left to hope they'll get the funding they need.


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