Farm bill listening session: Support nutrition, conservation, veterans who want to farm
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 07/10/2012 3:37 PM
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa —Support for nutrition programs for the poor, help for beginning farmers and veterans who want to farm, tying crop insurance subsidies to conservation compliance and a strong commitment to conservation are among the provisions people want in the next farm bill.
Iowans offered their views last week during a farm bill listening session hosted by U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, a Waterloo Democrat, and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at Kirkwood Community College.
Mark Short, a veteran and student at Kirkwood Community College, broke down in tears as he asked Braley and Vilsack why the country doesn't do more to help veterans in rural areas.
"What disturbs me is that I come back and see a lot of my friends don't have jobs," Short said. "They sacrificed so much for their country, what can the farm bill do to help these people get back to doing something they love and are so passionate about?"
Jeff Klinge, who feeds cattle and raises organic crops near Farmersburg, said government-subsidized crop insurance provides farmers with a guaranteed income.
"In talking to bankers and the largest farmers in my area, they tell me subsidized crop insurance is the one tool that helped them grow," Klinge said. "It leads to extreme concentration and to soil erosion. CRP and pasture ground that shouldn't be cropped is being plowed up."
David Differding of Timeless Prairie Orchard in Winthrop said he would like to insure his high density dwarf apple trees.
"Crop insurance covers the apples, but the problem is the tree itself," said Differding. "If an event takes out the tree itself, we lose our entire production. It takes four years to get trees back in production."
Frank Mertz, Iowa chairman of Ducks Unlimited, said he wants sodbuster requirements continued, and the wetlands reserve and conservation reserve programs strengthened.
Tom Fuller, Iowa coordinator for Pheasants Forever, echoed those concerns.
"My greatest fear isn't about pheasants or quail, my greatest fear is that I'm not going to see grandchildren raised in Iowa," Fuller said.
Barb Grant, executive director of Operation Threshold in Black Hawk, Buchanan and Grundy counties, was among several speakers who urged continued support for the nutrition title.
"We serve a lot of people who are food insecure," Grant said. "We have a small food pantry in Grundy County, one of the wealthiest counties in Iowa, yet in the 2011 to 2012 school year, requests for assistance were up 25 percent. We're providing support for many low income families who are struggling."
Jack Kintzle, a retired Coggon farmer and former president of the National Corn Growers Association, said he was surprised there were not more teeth requiring conservation compliance for farmers buying subsidized crop insurance in the proposed farm bill.
"We're subsidized at 60 percent and I think we should say that if you don't want to reach soil compliance, you can buy crop insurance but you'll pay 60 percent more," Kintzle said.