WASHINGTON, D.C. - While the recently passed farm bill represents a first for Congress since 2008, it will be several more months until the rules are fleshed out to put it into operation.
That was the message from Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden to the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation's annual visit to the nation's capital during a breakfast session Tuesday at the Capitol Holiday Inn.
The group also visited the Canadian Embassy to learn about agricultural trade and heard from a number of congressmen during a forum hosted by U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeview.
AG TRADE — Canada’s Mike Hawkins, left, agriculture counselor, and Brad Wood, first secretary for agriculture and fisheries, discussed agricultural trade between their nation and the United States during a tour stop by the Ohio Farm Bureau presidents in Washington Tuesday. - Paul Giannamore
"I know you all want certainty out in the countryside and you got certainty," said Harden, who was raised on a family farm in Georgia. "But, it's a complicated bill. Old-timers say it is more complicated than ever."
The first public briefing on the bill was postponed from Monday to today.
The major changes facing farmers is a choice between two kinds of crop insurance programs. One offers price loss coverage and the other covers agricultural risk.
Both are to be replacements for the former direct payments from the USDA to farmers as a subsidy, but farmers have to choose which program best fits their needs.
Their choice then will be locked in for the five-year duration of the current farm bill.
Harden said a major effort of her tenure for the remainder of the Obama administration will be a focus on getting more young people interested in becoming American farmers.
"My mother and father, who are in their 70s, are still active," but neither Harden nor her sister are in a position to run the family farm, nor do they have children to take it over.
"The person who is farming with them is a young guy of 65," she quipped. "That is not a long-term answer for my land. I don't want to sell an acre and I don't want to see it used for something other than agriculture. Who is going to farm it? How do we encourage young people to come back?"
She said there needs to be discussions and emphasis on returning war veterans, women, immigrants and current farmers on how to do succession planning. She said efforts should include social media and mentoring by current generations of farmers.
During the Canadian Embassy visit, one issue that captured the discussion is the country of origin labeling issue that started with the farm bill of 2008.
Under the policy, animals that are born in Canada but then raised and slaughtered in the U.S. are subjected to costly paperwork and segregation issues, in addition to being labeled as originating in Canada.
Some of the Ohio farmers said while there could be a way to ease those restrictions, they'd also like to see Canada ease up on import quotas on American agriculture products, including dairy.