March 04, 2024

State ag directors give farm bill perspectives

Mike Naig

DECATUR, Ill. — When it comes to the farm bill, every entity involved with the legislation has a different perspective.

For state departments of agriculture, which are charged with administering some — but not all — parts of the farm bill, the legislation can bring confusion.

State department of agriculture administrators and employees see firsthand the impacts of the farm bill.

At the Farm Progress Show, Chris Chinn, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, and Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture, participated in a farm bill panel discussion, along with Republican U.S. Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois, sponsored by Syngenta.

Chinn and Naig discussed what the farm bill looks like from the perspective of their own offices and what they, as state agriculture officials and farmers, would like to see in the upcoming legislation.

Chris Chinn

Chinn: “The biggest thing we have this year is the misconception that we, at the state, are the FSA office. We get a lot of phone calls about that from some very angry people. For us, as a Department of Agriculture, many of the things we do is help drive people to the FSA office and know what they can do, know what the FSA office is there to help them with. For us, as a department, it is really about us helping be a voice for the USDA Farm Service Agency office and helping them connect with producers. Many times, when our farmers and ranchers go to the FSA office, they are frustrated and those employees may not see the best side of our producers. We at the state Department of Agriculture can help represent what their voice needs to be heard. It is frustrating to sit in their seat, when you are losing your cattle or you don’t have enough hay out there to feed them, to go into the FSA office and think you are going to get one thing and then be told, well, actually, the rule works this way in our area. It’s a challenge. One size fits all just doesn’t work in a farm bill.”

Naig: “In the state of Iowa, every single title of the farm bill, even the forestry title, impacts our state. Every single title has got something that is a priority for us. When I look across the landscape, when I hear from producers, when I hear from ag businesses, what I am hearing a lot about is that uncertainty. We can all break down the issue on a farm into two broad categories, things I can control and things I can’t control. The farm bill is largely focused on managing the risks around the things you can’t control, market conditions, weather conditions. Crop insurance is huge for us, one of the most important risk management tools that we can put in the hands of our farmers. Conservation, rural development, research, trade — my goodness, do we need market access, both in the United States, but also around the world, so redoubling our efforts around foreign market development, leveraging farmer checkoff dollars to promote our products overseas. Those are all things that are tied back to the farm bill. Of course, nutrition, helping those in need, truly helping those in need as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Program, are important pieces, too. There are many issues. It’s hard to prioritize one, but I would go back to the beginning. If there is a top of the list, for me and for our producers, it really starts with risk management tools that farmers can put to work.”

Jeannine Otto

Jeannine Otto

Field Editor