Former Delta Council leader: Farm Bill could have far-reaching implications

Most Mississippians are enjoying summer diversions at beaches and lakes, but Benoit rice and soybean farmer Travis Satterfield is closely watching a cloud making its way here from Washington, D.C.

What is happening in Congress this month is certain to have far-reaching consequences for the Delta and other agricultural regions of The Magnolia State, he says, citing the current congressional debate over the shape the nation’s farm policy will take over the next five years.

Satterfield, who served as president of the Delta Council in 2009-2010, says he is worried about Congress’ plans for replacing price supports to farmers. He acknowledges the political difficulty of justifying the payments in a time of rising national budget deficits. But the Senate plan to emphasize crop yield insurance over price targets and no certainty that a House bill will shift back the balance has him fearing the state could face economic changes for which it is unprepared.

The farm bill has customarily been seen as an economic development tool to ensure the nation’s agricultural industry remains viable and its farm communities stay afloat, Satterfield noted.

Today, however, “We’re really at a new day in farm bills. If the full Senate passes this bill and we lose on something in the House, we’ll be in a new day. It may not be dark but it’s going to be clouding.”

One possible outcome of the end to price support is that farmers will switch to crops with the least price risk. They will have to switch or face losing the backing of their bankers, he said.

“We will be more attuned with the market” now that “we’re not going to get any help,” Satterfield said. “From a farmer standpoint, you’re going to have to restructure your business model. The concern is how your banker is going to take that.”

The banker has customarily penciled in a federal commodity floor price as a collateral amount for a crop loan. “Now, if you look at that Senate program you don’t have the assurance of a specific amount,” said Satterfield, who has worked extensively with the rice committees of the Delta Council. Mississippi Rice Council and Mississippi Farm Bureau. He and his family also grow corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat in the Long Shot community.

“I think we’re going to see some concerns about financing,” he said.

Most all of the commodities are on a bubble that so far has been kept from bursting by yield prices staying above production costs. “As long as the bubble keeps air in it we’re in good shape. The Farm Bill is throwing a dart at it. Whether it hits the bubble or not I don’t know.”

 

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