Where’s the money?

Published 12:01 am Monday, February 25, 2008

NATCHEZ — While the U.S. Congress has until March 15 to pass the 2008 farm bill, the average farming operation has to plug on while they wait.

A version of the bill has passed both the house and the senate, but a joint committee has to work out a compromise bill before it can be sent to the president for signing.

“Everybody is on hold to see what the farm bill is going to be,” Natchez farmer W.D. Rives said. “It’s time to farm and we don’t have a farm bill.”

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The goal of the farm bill is first and foremost to make sure there is an ample food supply for the United States and an affordable cost to the consumer, Adams County Extension Service Director David Carter said.

One way the bill does this is through farm subsidies to help producers keep their costs down.

“In terms of what farmers are doing right now, without the farm bill it would be hard on a lot of farmers,” Carter said.

This year, one of the versions of the bill adds conservation subsidies for farms to encourage them to plant trees or take other measures to improve air and water quality, Carter said.

But it is some of the other proposed changes to the bill that Rives is watching for.

“Some of biggest things are going to be payment limitations,” Rives said.

Under the present farm bill, an operation can receive up to $40,000, but if the gross adjusted income of the producer is $2.5 million or more they are not eligible for the program.

The new proposal is to lower the gross adjusted income limit to $200,000, Rives said.

“That would affect a lot of farmers,” he said.

Another change Rives said might affect a lot of farmers is the proposed removal of a provision that allows some producers to participate in a farm bill program as both an individual and as a part of a farming entity.

Regardless of where the farm bill stands, farmers are going to have to start planting, and Rives said his farm would begin planting corn in March like always.

As for Monterey farmer Tim Poole, the lack of progress in Congress isn’t going to have much of an effect on him.

“We went ahead and planted as usual,” Poole said. “We don’t get a bunch of program money anyway.”