Too little long-term planning and extraneous debates

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As spring planting was completed, farmers had made major decisions without a new farm bill in place. Planning for the future with five-, 10- and 20-year plans are the way that crop protection companies operate. But Congress has not been allowing farmers to do the minimal five-year planning for running their million dollar businesses, nor have ag retailers been in a place to have definite plans to work with their customers and expand their operations.

The big problem in passing a farm bill, which was still a long way from passing the two chambers of Congress at the end of June, was the political fighting. The bill debated by the House in mid-June didn’t satisfy the far right or the far left.

What keeps being thrown around by many who won’t vote favorably for a farm bill, or any other major bill, is that this is an all-inclusive bill, the type that has been common for the way that Congress operated in the past. The argument is that these bills are too big and include too many amendments, riders and regulatory rules for members of Congress to interpret. They want those 1,000-plus-page bills chopped into pieces. But from my experience, agricultural billion-dollar-corporations don’t put their long-term plans together with piece-meal sections and hope the pieces fit together into a congruent overall sensible plan and vision when enacted separately.

The closest comparison in the ag industry to the government developing an overall vision is individual ag corporations putting together their own written sustainability visions—developing process and enacting sustainable tactics. Their sustainability visions and outlined practices touch every business division and cost each corporation millions of dollars.

Product research and product development plans are other examples of long-term planning. In this issue, I have an article where I interviewed corn seed managers of major companies. It is obvious that planning and investment has to be on 20-year timelines because each of the officials talked about projects without a specific end date. After suggesting that huge 1,000-page congressional bills are OK, I also have to admit that there always is some overreaching to include too many riders and amendments to most large bills.

The environmental, conservation sections of a farm bill are an example of how some proposals for a new farm bill would amend aspects of other laws already in effect. So many groups, including environmental activists, try to have new laws enacted by way of the back door or separate from having individual changes in law debated on their own merits. Can an amendment to the Endangered Species Act show up in the farm bill? Can amendments to the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA), allowing the federal government to acquire sensitive wildlife habitat using proceeds from sales of lower value federal lands, be part of the farm bill?

Other laws or regulations that were reportedly at least proposed to be part of any farm bill discussion included the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

Of course, the big target by the activists has been to get rid of the genetically modified organism (GMO) rider that keeps farmers from being penalized for planting approved GMO crops when the activists get the courts to consider banning the approved GMO crops. This is the activist-termed “Monsanto Protection Act.”

Limiting the extraneous debates are impossible. In my way of thinking, there is no doubt that rural members of Congress have less power than ever to force legislation through, and less attention is being paid to what agribusiness, farmers and ranchers want.

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