March 04, 2024

Farmers urge farm bill action sooner, not later

‘We definitely want to protect crop insurance’

Dave Kestel, a fourth-generation farmer in Will County in northeastern Illinois, says protecting crop insurance is important in the upcoming farm bill.

DECATUR, Ill. — Dave Kestel is well known on social media for his consistently positive attitude and his upbeat and patriotic photos that salute the American flag and the American farmer.

He had a message for members of Congress of both political parties, regarding the now-delayed farm bill.

“You have a job to do. You have to get the farm bill done. Do it. Quit screwing around and just do your job,” said Kestel, who farms near Manhattan in northeastern Illinois.

Kestel said he, like others, is frustrated by the delays.

“The more they delay it, the more they are screwing off. Anybody else that’s got a job, you do your job,” he said.

Kestel was at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur. He was “hanging out” in the Corteva Agriscience and Pioneer tent, as well as exploring the new products and services displayed at the farm show.

“Being a Pioneer seed rep, I come and hang out in the Pioneer tent. I know a lot of people here. Like most everyone else here at the show, I’m looking at the new stuff that’s out,” he said.

Kestel strip-tills his corn so new designs in strip-till bars were of particular interest.

“I am looking at some of the strip-till bar designs. They are pretty incredible, the size of the coulters, the designs of the coulters, the designs of the closing wheels. There are a lot of smart people out there who are thinking this stuff up,” he said.

When it comes to the farm bill, Kestel said he hopes that those negotiating the new legislation keep crop insurance as is.

“Just keep the crop insurance there. Crop insurance is going to bring you to 80%, 85%. It’s never going to make you whole,” he said.

“We need crop insurance because the amount of money that it costs per acre to put in a crop now, to lay all that out, and to not have some kind of insurance, that is a scary thought.”

On the other end and other side of the state, the president of the American Soybean Association said he has concerns on the timeline for the farm bill.

Daryl Cates, farms near Columbia in Monroe County, on the banks of the Mississippi River. He raises corn, soybeans and wheat.

During a panel discussion, hosted by Syngenta, that featured Republican U.S. Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois, who is a new member of the House Agriculture Committee, Cates asked Miller about the likelihood of the farm bill being completed this year.

“Well, the farm bill is in jeopardy before the shutdown, because of time constraints. I don’t know, we’ll just have to see what’s ahead. I can’t predict the time frames,” Miller said.

Cates said his concern is that a shutdown and the aftermath of getting the government back up and running could push the farm bill into 2024.

That would bring a new set of challenges to getting a new farm bill negotiated, passed and signed.

“I’m concerned if we get bogged down in this budget and the government shuts down that we might not get the farm bill done at all this year. If we move into next year, you have a presidential election. Then, I’m really concerned about what could happen then,” he said.

Cates said his biggest concern is that if talks and negotiations on the new farm bill continue to be pushed back, the Agricultural Act of 1949 could be implemented. That act authorizes price support at 90% of parity for selected commodities.

“That would be a disaster. If they extend the current farm bill, at least we know where we stand,” he said.

In December 2012, as Congress failed to pass a new farm bill, to replace the 2008 farm bill, which expired on Sept. 30, 2012, the threat of reverting to the Agricultural Act of 1949 loomed.

The 2014 farm bill was signed into law on Feb. 7, 2014, after the 2012 farm bill was extended several times.

“There has been some talk that if it doesn’t get done by the second quarter of 2024, then we are looking into 2025 and that would not be good at all,” the ASA president said.

Cates said soybean association members want to protect crop insurance and increase funding for trade initiatives, including the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development.

“We also would like the reference price to be more in line with our cost of production, and we definitely want to protect crop insurance,” he said.

Jeannine Otto

Jeannine Otto

Field Editor