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Our Opinion: Farm bill changes coming in 2015

Published 9:52am Wednesday, February 26, 2014

We were glad to see the leaders in Washington finally passed a much-overdue farm bill. Moreover, it’s good that the measure remained steady on crop insurance for 2014. That gives growers and bankers a year to prepare for changes coming in 2015.

The system of automatic payments regardless of good or bad times — while good for rural America — we must admit was doomed politically. The new program is based on need, whether low yield, bad weather, low prices and other factors, and shifts the system to crop insurance rather than direct cash payments.

America needed a farm bill that acts more like a safety net to keep farmers on the land and bolster the delicate rural economy when times turn tough. And that’s what America got. The new farm bill will keep urban lawmakers who don’t quite understand the rural economy happy while keeping a safety net in place. As we learned in the 1980s, it’s risky and economically unsound to farm, to bank on farming and to insure farming without a safety net. In turn, a farm crisis — even for a single down year — can effect the economy in cities big, small and in between. Rural and urban legislators don’t want that.

Under the new farm bill, the government will continue to subsidize premiums for crop insurance, and despite the long budget fight that aspect hasn’t been weakened, according to analysts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will bear the cost of up to two-thirds of the cost of crop insurance premiums. The subsidy goes straight to the insurers.

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