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Ellen Linderman, Published January 28 2010

Even national Farm Bureau rejects NDFB subsidy stance

Kevin Hall tries to defend the North Dakota Farm Bureau policy, which seeks to end all farm program payments (Jan. 17). Interestingly, the American Farm Bureau Federation, at its recent convention, rejected a NDFB attempt to ask for reduced farm program payments. Instead, delegates from the South asked for increased disaster payments to compensate them for disasters they have suffered.

Hall may have a short memory, or perhaps his circle of friends is limited to eastern North Dakota. I remember that farmers and ranchers in western North Dakota suffered from severe drought only last year and have suffered several in the past decade. North Dakota Farm Business Management statistics will show that government payments and crop insurance made the difference between paying the bills and suffering severe losses several times in recent years.

Hall also attacks crop insurance subsidies to help farmers buy up for higher percentages of coverage. The higher levels of coverage are necessary for younger, more highly leveraged producers, but the premiums, determined by production experience in each county, get very expensive. Thus the subsidies are used to help and encourage farmers to insure their crops at higher levels and not rely solely on ad hoc disaster payments.

Hall is right about a couple of things. Crop subsidies are capitalized into land costs, but this situation would be prevented if there were meaningful payment limits. He is also right that large CRP acreages are damaging to some communities. However, many acres in CRP are fragile lands that should never have been tilled. Sensible limits could be applied on what percentage of a county could be in CRP.

Most farmers I know would rather get their income from the marketplace and not have need of government payments. However, they deal with two forces they cannot control, the weather and the markets. When someone figures out how to solve those two problems, we will all be happy to call for the end to farm program payments.

Linderman lives in Carrington, N.D., and farms nearby.