An ag economics expert says this year’s farm bill battle is a repeat of bills gone by. Dr. Joe Outlaw is a Regents Fellow, Professor, and Extension Economist in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University. In addition, he is the Co-Director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center (AFPC) at Texas A&M University. During a recent Farm Foundation online forum, Dr. Outlaw stressed that farm bills have a hard-fought history.
“We’ve done this 90 plus years and they’ve never been easy. That’s the one thing I really wanted to make sure everybody understands,” he said. “The farm bills are hard to do because you’ve got people from both sides of the aisle, both sides of Congress that have different priorities.
He said during his career of forty decades, he’s similarities in farm bills throughout the years.
“Over my career in general, the Democrats have been really supportive of food programs and conservation programs–not that they don’t support the other side, the title one the producer payments, but what do you have? You tend to have different groups saying that they want to protect certain areas. In general, over my 40-year career, Republicans have been really focused on the safety net title specifically,” he said.
He also said farm bills are crafted for when times are tough, and the conditions now don’t necessarily fit that description.
“We have a cyclical safety net that when things go bad, the government steps in pretty significantly. When things are good, the government kind of takes a step back and lets the market function,” he said. “We can talk about conservation. We can talk about climate change. All those things are within the context of the Farm Bill. But, when you look at the safety net side, it’s all about the bad times. And frankly, as a couple of people have alluded to, the bad times are coming. They’re just not here right now.”
Outlaw said that the conditions are too good at the moment, despite everything non-agriculture related happening in Washington D.C. “If you’ve done farm bills like I have or been involved in them, you say that they’re a little bit easier to get things moving when there’s some sort of crisis in Washington and there’s not one right now in terms of the ag producers,” he said.
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.
Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.