Bad Weather is making things tougher for farmers

From floods in Iowa and across the Midwest to the droughts in California, American farmers cannot seem to catch a break.

The floods in Iowa have affected 83 of the 99 counties with farmland losses in the billions of dollars. Grain prices may continue to rise, due in part to the flooding. It is not uncommon for food prices to spike after bad weather. Typically, these increases do not last long.

The bad weather has devastated some farmers to the point where they do not want to continue to farm the land. Farmers such as Gerald Jenkins, of the Ursa Farmer Cooperative, in Meyer, Ill., are not going to replant this season, and Jenkins may not plant in the future. Ron Lanz, a farmer from Iowa, lost more than 800 hogs due to flooding. He said he has considered giving up farming altogether.

While one part of the country wants the rain to stop, the other part is praying for rain to come. California is on the verge of a two-year drought, which is costing farmer Todd Diedrich up to 750 acres worth roughly $3 million in lost revenue. Many farmers, including Diedrich, are not sure their farm will survive another year like this.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is pushing the state Legislature to approve an $11.9 billion bond for water management, offering relief to those affected by this drought.

Consumers also need to prepare themselves for the aftershock of this bad weather. Fuel and food prices could be affected due to farmers not being able to produce a good crop.

Stephen Schork editor of the Schork Report, a newsletter that focuses on energy, stated that the bad weather could not have come at a worse time. Consumers are already paying over $4 a gallon at the gas pump and food prices have been predicted to go up by at least 7 percent, putting a big strain on America’s wallet.

With this bad weather, food and fuel prices could continue to rise. The question farmers and consumers now have to ask: What is going to happen next?

Farm Bill Update: Farm Bill Passed Despite Presidential Veto

Last week, we talked about all that was going on with the Farm Bill and whether or not it is worth all of this commotion. In order to know if it is truly worth all the debating and wondering if Congress should’ve just stopped the bill, instead of overriding the veto, let’s travel back in time to grasp a better understanding of how the Farm Bill came to be and the importance behind it.

The Farm Bill started as the Agricultural Adjustment Act in 1933. The bill restricted production during the New Deal by paying farmers to reduce crop area. Its purpose was to reduce crop surplus to effectively raise the value of crops, thereby giving farmers relative stability again. The farmers were paid subsidies by the federal government for leaving some of their fields unused.

Now, in 2008, the Farm Bill is officially called the Food, Conservation and Energy Act, continuing its history of agricultural subsidy, as well as now pursuing areas such as energy, conservation, nutrition and rural development. With that background and acknowledging the fact that this bill is not perfect, overall it feeds the hungry, conserves the nation’s land and natural resources and keeps working farmers on their land.

Finally, after a long debate lasting nearly two years, Americans have a new Farm Bill. A bill that President Bush vetoed and called “bloated” because it went over budget. While many Americans are happy to finally have a working Farm Bill, there are some who are still concerned with the bill.

The head of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy, stated that the newly passed U.S. Farm Bill sent a “bad signal” to the world; especially while talks on global trade deals are in the works. Many nations across the world are worried that this bill will negatively affect the global trade talks.

Lamy commented to a European Parliament committee that “this Farm Bill is not sending a great signal that the U.S. is serious about reducing its subsidies.” Lamy feels that this Farm Bill will delay the international trade talks between rich, developed nations and poverty-stricken, developing nations.

Even though there are concerns with the Farm Bill, people are praising Congress for overriding President Bush’s veto. Numerous Republicans differed from Bush and overrode the veto. They believed overturning the president’s veto was necessary because the Farm Bill will provide relief programs to help millions of farmers and consumers in need.

In a showing of Congressional bipartisan support, Democrats have also welcomed the bill’s passage. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) said the bill is by far the most reformed bill since the 1949 Act. Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) stated that this bill is for both the urban consumer and the farmer. “At a time of rising grocery costs, we increase support for those having trouble buying food for their families. The most dramatic increase is nutrition support, $10.3 billion additional spending in this Farm Bill. All of it directed towards enhancing nutrition programs,” said Pomeroy.

So the Farm Bill has now expanded to cover not only the farmer but the consumer as well. Some people love it. Others hate it. What’s your view?