By Steve White email@example.com
Nebraska's number one industry shatters records, as land prices and farm profits soar. It comes in stark contrast to the mood in the nation's capitol where the deficit grows.
Remember the super committee and budget debate? Congress is definitely in the mood to slash direct payments to farmers.
During a farm bill forum in AUrora, farmers said they're willing to go along with that, if they maintain a safety net.
Farmers like Tom Groeteke see signs of a prosperous farm economy. "Drive along today and see new buildings go up, new grain bins," the Clarks area farmers said.
Yet farmers worry the nation's leaders don't know the story behind six dollar corn and record land sales.
"That's what makes headlines now so farmers are making all this money, they don't need anything. They don't talk about what inputs are. Costs $5 - 5.50 a bushel to raise corn today and our safety support is way below that at this time," Groeteke said.
That's the message Groeteke had for Rep. Adrian Smith. Farmers want to maintain the safety net.
Smith said, "Crop insurance has been working pretty well. We don't want to undermine that and so the question will be how different will crop insurance be moving forward. That's the shallow loss versus deep loss debate."
Nebraska farmers say they favor protection against the deep losses, since they rely on irrigation to ensure a good crop.
Groeteke said, "I think support should be for catastrophic things."
Congress has already proposed $23 billion in farm program cuts including the end of direct payments.
Farm groups say they're doing willing to do their part to control government spending, which is why they're on board with ending direct payments to farmers.
Corn Growers Chair Brandon Hunnicutt said, "Direct payments are going to go by the wayside. You see groups like the Corn Growers Association, all of us have realized that's something we can't just support anymore. It doesn't work for the population. Farmers don't necessarily need it like in prior years and let's give something up so we can keep other things down the road.
A White House budget report stated, "Direct payments do not vary with prices, yields, or producers' farm incomes. As a result, taxpayers continue to foot the bill for these payments to farmers who are experiencing record yields and prices; more than 50 percent of direct payments go to farmers with more than $100,000 in income."
Farmers do want to make sure crop insurance programs continue.
Hunnicutt said, "It puts skin in the game not just for the government, but skin in the game for farmers as well because we do have to pay for our own crop insurance. We're really showing our fiscal responsibility and we think that's huge in the next farm bill."
Steve Nelson is President of Nebraska Farm Bureau. He said, "We've had really great times in ag the last few years and don't want to sound like we're complaining about that. At the same time, we realize we live in cycles there will be a time in the future most likely that profitability will be an issue."
Nelson farms near Axtell and Hunnicutt farms by Giltner. Both attended Congressman Smith's listening session in Aurora.
Smith said, "I commend producers. I've heard from them not just this week but for a few months now. They're willing to give up direct payments from the commodity title. I think that sends a big message to the desire for reforms."
For all the talk about direct payments and a safety net, Congressman Smith cautions farmers that those issues will take a backseat to food stamps and nutrition programs.
"There's not much farm left in the farm bill," he said.
Congress took up this debate last fall, but didn't resolve anything. Some say they could have a farm bill by Easter, others say not until after the November elections.