Acadiana Business

Farm Bill a mixed crop in Louisiana

by Leslie Turk

While sugar cane producers chalked up a win in the new Farm Bill being debated in Congress, rice farmers aren't happy. Independent contributor Jeremy Alford, in a story published by The Courier in Houma, says so far regional agriculture professionals in the state are looking at a mixed crop.

The U.S. Senate-passed bill cuts agriculture programs by $23.6 billion over 10 years, Bloomberg reports, primarily by ending direct payments to growers regardless of commodity prices. It's being called the biggest policy change in the Farm Bill in decades; the current five-year bill expires in September. While the bill ends direct payments, there are other protections for farmers, including expanded crop-insurance programs and aid for losses when prices drop or crops fail.

Sugar cane producers managed to get a minor win out of the Senate-passed bill, according to The Courier story, while others like rice farmers are fighting what they decry as "unfair" provisions.

The House Agriculture Committee is next to take up the bill. The Courier reports on why both of the state's U.S. senators voted against the legislation last week:
Before he voted in opposition, Sen. David Vitter, a Republican, attached an amendment to the bill that he says aimed to close loopholes in the federal animal-fighting law related to attendance at dogfights and cockfights.

Vitter, who described such activities as "garish spectacles," said cons outweighed the pros, such as an expansion of the federal food-stamp program.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, a Democrat, has also voiced concerns that the bill would have drastic consequences for Louisiana's rice farmers.
Click here for what Robert Paarlberg, author of Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know, told U.S. News about why some of the benefits in the Senate-passed bill are a waste of taxpayers' money.