Richard Guebert Jr.

Richard Guebert Jr.

Farm bill keeps food supply affordable 

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By Richard Guebert Jr.

With winter weather on the horizon, farmers across the state are gearing up for another productive spring planting season. Once the frost melts and the soil temperatures rise, it will be time to hit the fields; but for many farmers, high prices for fertilizer, fuel and other critical tools remain a challenge.

Like consumers, farmers are feeling the pain of ongoing inflation. The ripple effects of the war in Ukraine and supply chain issues pose significant hurdles for farmers. Heading into the spring season and farm bill negotiations, these difficulties remain top of mind at Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB).

In early February, the United States Department of Agriculture’s latest Farm Sector Income Forecast report indicated that U.S. net farm income will fall nearly 16% from the previous year while production costs are expected to increase more than 4%. That’s on top of an already record increase in production costs in 2022.

GSWNH RichardGuebert 070822

Richard Guebert Jr.

While fuel and fertilizer prices are expected to soften, other costs related to marketing, storage and transportation are expected to increase 11%, and labor by 7%. Rising interest rates and farm sector costs are another concern as the USDA projects farm sector debt will increase $31.9 billion to a record $535 billion.

General inflation is a long-term issue squeezing the pocketbooks of families across America, but the farm income forecast is a reminder that farmers are not benefiting from higher prices at the grocery store.

While some commodity prices are rising, farmers are grappling with additional circumstances, such as drought, avian influenza and supply and labor costs. After accounting for business expenses, farmers’ share of the food dollar is only 7.4 cents.

That is why the farm bill is so important for everyone, not just farmers. Farm bill programs provide farmers with critical support to mitigate natural disasters and other crises. Other programs secure America’s domestic food supply, which keeps our agricultural economy strong while providing consumers with affordable, high-quality products at the grocery store.

The farm bill also addresses hunger through nutrition programs, which serve our most vulnerable populations and ensure that everyone has access to affordable, fresh and healthy food. Conservation is another key focus of the farm bill, which invests in agriculture research and conservation programs to increase sustainability.

IFB is dedicated to working with our members and elected officials on both sides of the aisle to pass a farm bill that meets the needs of all agriculture segments.

Our members and leaders believe the farm bill must maintain the link between nutrition and commodity programs. IFB also supports maintaining the current crop insurance program, providing price and revenue protection for farmers, and retaining both SNAP and TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) in the farm bill in their current form.

As we head into another eventful spring, I look forward to working with our members and elected officials to get this critical piece of legislation to the president’s desk.

Richard Guebert Jr. is president of the Illinois Farm Bureau. This opinion piece was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.

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