Since 1990 the Farm Bill has protected the interests of growers around the United States.
Throughout the history of the Farm Bill, there have been many reforms. Congress rolls out a new Farm Bill every four to five years to ensure progressive work is continuing to happen all the way from the Hill to the heartland The U.S. Farm Bill is designed to be a safety net for producers, providing support without impacting production decisions. Over the years, there has been increased development of crop insurance and conservation programs that aim to meet the evolving needs of farmers.
Since reforms to the Farm Bill were made in the 1990s, crop insurance has emerged as a significant piece of the bill for producers. The ability to get subsidized crop insurance has provided a safety net during years with lower prices and lower yields. This program protects roughly 90% of soybean acres. Now, farmers have the ability to find service providers that fit their needs, select customized coverage and respond quickly when losses are triggered.
“Crop insurance will continue to be a major source of support for producers over the next ten years,” said Dr. Patrick Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute. “However, many farmers are concerned that programs like the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program do not provide an adequate safety net, given recent increases in production costs. The challenge is that providing a stronger safety net would likely increase taxpayer costs. Then the question arises, can you pass a Farm Bill that increases government spending or cut another program to cover costs?”
Missouri farmers pride themselves on being good stewards of the land. In alignment with that, more emphasis has been placed on Farm Bill conservation programs. Voluntary, incentive-based programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) are available through Farm Bill funding. They promote agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals and provide assistance to install and implement conservation practices. Unfortunately, complex guidelines and regulations, coupled with limited funding, reduce the number of farmers who are contracted for these programs.
“Conservation programs such as EQIP and CSP are not only important to the resources of Missouri, but also to soybean farmers who can get funding to implement conservation practices on their farms,” said Clayton Light, Missouri Soybeans director of conservation agriculture and farm operations.
“Farmers all have the same goal of leaving the land in better shape for the next generation, and the programs that are funded through the farm bill can help them meet this goal.”
Looking to the 2023 Farm Bill, producers can expect to see crop insurance protection and bolstered conservation programs as two main priorities for the soybean industry.
“Throughout future discussions, there may be a significant amount of debate about what the bill should look like going forward,” says Dr. Scott Brown, director of strategic partnerships for the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. “Many of the same issues will be at play in this farm bill as seen in the past. The nutrition title will likely be a highly debated topic; however, it will be necessary to get the Farm Bill to the finish line.”
With each Farm Bill, there are fewer Congressional members with agricultural backgrounds. Despite this challenge, soybeans will stand strong in the effort to continue improving this important safety net for farmers, growing investments and building opportunities for U.S. commodities and soy-based products.