2018 Farm Bill continues to take shape

Source: KMA Land

(Washington, D.C.) -- As Congress continues to formulate the next farm bill, an Iowa farmer and an Iowa politician both weighed in on the issue on Capitol Hill.

At a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee hearing this week, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst pushed for answers on the benefits of programs like the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers in exchange for removing environmentally sensitive land from production. Ernst says in Iowa, high CRP usage correlates with poverty rates.

"Many of the counties in Iowa with the highest poverty rates are also the counties with the most land enrolled in CRP," said Ernst. "Decatur County, for instance, has a 22 percent poverty rate and has 26.6 percent of its crop land enrolled in CRP."

Ernst questioned whether more targeted conservation might be the answer in the next farm bill. She says blanket programs like CRP could hinder young farmers from building their operation.

"They're concerned that land availability is not there," said Ernst. "So, those young farmers are not engaging in farming. They aren't raising their families, they aren't sending them to school in rural areas, so it is a problem that we need to address."

Iowa farmer Bruce Rohwer of Paullina was a panelist during the hearing. Rohwer -- who is a board member of the National Corn Growers Association -- raises corn and soybeans, owns a tiling business and co-owns a hog operation. On the corn side of things, Rohwer says trade must be addressed in next year's legislation.

"We are going to need to figure out how to increase demand for our products," said Rohwer. "We have a three-legged stool of demand for corn between livestock, exports and ethanol. We need to make sure that the demand is ever-increasing."

As domestic corn production increases, Rohwer says the biggest potential for ag sector growth is in exports.

"It is absolutely crucial that we have a good trade potential climate worldwide so that we can find a home for this great bounty that we're able to produce," said Rohwer.

Rohwer was one of 17 panelists that participated in the hearing, which focused on commodities, credit and crop insurance.