Farmers' hold breath for federal Farm Bill

Farmers' hold breath for federal Farm Bill

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

One piece of legislation has members of Alabama's largest industry holding their breath.

Congress has until January 1st, 2014 to pass a new farm bill or extend the old one, or else food prices could skyrocket.

Both chambers of Congress have a different bill on the table right now.

But farmers just hope something passes, so they can have peace of mind.

"We're dealing with a great deal of uncertainty," says Richard Edgar, a cotton farmer in Deatsville.

It's the main reason a new farm bill is necessary.

"Our best hope right now is that they can work out their differences."

Richard Edgar is one of five generations to grow up on the cotton field.

Right now, the future of the Farm Bill has his future hanging by a thread.

"It's just a tool that would allow us to know what the game plan is for the coming year," says Edgar.

"They just need to know what that policy is so they can make the best decisions for their farm and their families," says Mitt Walker, Director of National Affairs with the Alabama Farmer's Federation.

He's keeping tabs on the Farm Bill's progress on behalf of the state's more than 45,000 farmers.

Both the House and Senate versions call for significant cuts to Farm Bill programs.

Walker believes what's called direct payments to farmers will be slashed.

They're subsidies paid to farmers who fall on hard times.

"I think farmers have been expecting for a while for those to go away. There will still be somewhat of a safety net there for producers."

That safety net is called crop insurance. A new bill could reduce the current deductible farmers must meet.

"It helps them mitigate risk and it really helps them to be a little more independent, I think of some of the commodity title programs," says Walker.

Walker believes Congress' decision on a farm bill could help jump start more budget talks.

"It's vitally important to our economy that we have a strong and stable agriculture in our country," adds Edgar.

One other reason experts are watching this decision is because milk prices could skyrocket if Congress doesn't pass a bill.

Pre-Farm Bill legislation doesn't contain policy allowing for dairy farmers to keep costs low.

If farmers' prices go up, so would the price consumers pay.

Both the House and Senate versions of a new bill contain dairy policy to keep that from happening.

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