Will the Next US Farm Bill Put Power Back into Farmers’ Hands?

The ongoing political circus in Washington has overshadowed the efforts of House Agriculture Chairman Michael Conaway’s efforts to develop a coherent Farm Bill this summer.

The Hagstrom Report said in early August that Conaway and the House Committee on Agriculture are pushing for a farm bill by the end of the legislative calendar this year…

It’s looking more and more challenging given Republicans’ inability to get tax, infrastructure spending, and healthcare reform done this year.

Conaway’s efforts follow a series of “listening sessions” down in Conaway’s home state of Texas. There were also several months of hearings that have included debate on the broader agribusiness economy, rural development, infrastructure, farm credits, subsidies, NAFTA, cotton, and food stamp programs.

One bill to cover all of these challenges, many of which were exacerbated by Washington in the first place.

Forgive our skepticism over Washington’s ability to fix so many problems in the agricultural sector.

Today, we want to address the real problem in today’s agricultural industry.

If Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) is still listening… please, let us help solve a problem that has been a major theme of the listening sessions your committees have observed.

Promote new ways to empower farmers and help them earn more money for their crop…

Tales from the Fields

Three weeks ago, Tony Dreibus at Successful Farming Online stated that many farmers are counting on the new farm bill and the renegotiation of NAFTA to help bolster the economic health of rural America.

The stories from the fields are heartbreaking.

“Wade Cowan, the chairman of the American Soybean Association, said now is a tough time for farmers. Low crop prices along with high input costs are making it difficult to make money. When producers don’t spend, everybody in rural America suffers,” Dreibus wrote.

“I’m an eighth-generation farmer, and it breaks my heart to tell you that I don’t think there’ll be a ninth,” Cowan said. “Things are so tough.’”

This sentiment is common.

We’ve heard stories from across the Corn Belt to the northern Plains. From fruit farms in the southeastern part of the U.S. to the spring wheat fields of Washington State. Crop quality has been declining, local prices remain weak, and balance sheets are underwater.

There is a sense of powerlessness when one reads about farmers fretting about the state of their farms.

For example, in 2016, 30 % of Minnesota farmers lost money. And while last month’s AgBarometer from Purdue University and CME Group indicated some increase in optimism, there are still way too many farmers in 2017 who are losing sleep about their grain sales.

The idea that Washington is going to be able to solve all of these problems is unrealistic.

I have two concerns about the agricultural sector.

First, the entire industry is completely reliant on Washington D.C. to make decisions and drive markets. Talk to farmers in Illinois and Indiana, and they’ll tell you that the numbers coming out of the USDA this year appear way out of line with reality.

This is part of a broader problem with the USDA, an institution that is built on good intentions but plagued with bureaucracy. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this industry.

The same goes for the Farm Bill, which will attempt to be one-size fits all solution to addressing problems that have emerged in the last five years, but isn’t forward-thinking enough to recognize the challenges we will face in the next decade.

The second concern, however, is more important. If farmers are going to earn more for their grain – and improve the finances of their operations – then the current wheel must be broken.

The agricultural sector must be opened up to promote greater price competition and no longer leave farmers beholden to the status quo.

Instead of making farmers reliant on Washington, perhaps it is time to find new ways to empower them like never before.

FarmLead: A Solution to the Industry’s Core Problem

After all of the listening tours and trips between rural America and the Washington, we hope that Ag Chairman Conaway understands that the solution isn’t just more reactionary public policy.

Instead, it is time to incorporate more local competition for pricing that gives sellers collective power in the market.

FarmLead is an online grain marketplace that makes it easier to sell your grain in one place and remove many of the hassles that you face on a day-to-day basis.

We have proven that sellers can earn more for their grain by bringing more buyers to the market and creating competition at the local levels.

Farmers no longer have to be on the phone calling around to elevators, digging through USDA basis reports, or digging through local cash bids.

They can post your grain and specifications to the online marketplace in just minutes. Doing so gives them access to thousands of buyers across the platform in literally dozens of commodity categories. Whether it’s convention corn or feed wheat or non-GMO soybeans, they can negotiate it on FarmLead.

All of our buyers have been financially vetted. One hundred percent of our deals have been completed, and farmers walk away with an average of 5% to 6% more for their grain than other bids they’re getting.

Best of all: It’s free to post their grain online.

This is the only service I can think of that is free for farmers to use and make more money without having to purchase a new tractor or the latest piece of agricultural technology. (Once a sale is completed, farmers do pay a small connection fee that is usually less than 1 cent per bushel.

FarmLead is part of a broader mission from other agricultural technology companies that aim to empower farmers and help them address inefficiencies in today’s industry.

Remember, with FarmLead, you don’t pay anything to upfront. Either find a better price for your grain or you pay nothing.

To learn more, visit us at FarmLead.com.

About the Author
Garrett Baldwin

Garrett Baldwin is a content strategist and editor at FarmLead. He covers the global grain markets and public policy issues related to the agricultural industry. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Economic Policy from The Johns Hopkins University, an MS in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, and an MBA in Finance from Indiana University.

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