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Nation's financial ills mean less money for MN agriculture

ST. PAUL - The Minnesota Farmers Union expects to see cuts across the board in the 2012 Farm Bill as lawmakers try to rein in the national deficit.

Farmers Union President Doug Peterson says he understands there will be reductions, but hopes they won't only impact farmers.

"If you're going to cut my program in agriculture, where we are actually still maintaining and keeping the same food value in corn ethanol, then I think you have to also look at some of the problems that we have with subsidizing big oil companies."

Peterson says the bill may include a permanent disaster program and changes in crop insurance programs. He wants to make sure farmers have a strong safety net.

"...that kicks in when prices are low or terrible for farmers and also when disaster strikes, You have to have a safety net - and that you can do with significantly less money than what is currently being done in policy now."

While it's called the 2012 Farm Bill, Peterson says Congress normally is about a year late as parts of the package are debated - and this time around, a timeline is anyone's guess.

"Will they bring forward a bill during a presidential election? Typically, they haven't done that - and if they do, what kind of politics are going to be involved in that farm bill? Where are the red states and the blue states going to line up when it comes to insurance and nutrition programs?"

What farmers really want, Peterson says, is stability when it comes to rules and regulations, so they can go forward with their business plans with more confidence. Peterson was among Minnesota farmers who met last week with the National Farmers Union president about the content of the new farm bill.