Updated 

Farm bill draws mixed reviews locally


The five-year, $1 trillion farm bill approved by Congress is drawing mixed reviews among area producers.

The measure — endorsed by the Senate on Tuesday after having previously won a nod from the House of Representatives — would stop direct subsidies for farmers. The present subsidy program has existed for 80 years.

President Obama has said he will sign the bill into law.

Glynn Guenther of Pine Bluff helps in overseeing an 8,500-acre family farm at Rob Roy, north of Pine Bluff. Guenther said the family’s primary crops are corn and rice, and the farm also produces soybeans and wheat.

“We were hoping for a better program,” Guenther said of his family. He believes the bill is “too focused on its nutrition portion” and doesn’t do enough in supporting producers.

“Some (provisions) don’t make sense,” he said.

Guenther expressed reservations on the subsidy developments and is also concerned about crop insurance particulars that haven’t yet been finalized with a Feb. 28 deadline to acquire insurance fast approaching. A stronger insurance program is aimed at compensating producers’ loss of planting subsidies.

“So far, the only crop that I see will benefit very much is cotton,” he said.

Guenther also thinks some provisions will help in boosting rice prices. He’s worried about “interruptions with the corn supply.”

Abraham Carpenter Jr. of Grady produces vegetables on a 1,200-acre farm in Lincoln County.

“I haven’t read (the bill) in depth, but it’s OK from what I’m hearing,” he said. “But it’s not everything farmers wanted or needed.”

Carpenter said that in order to remain in business, “farmers need to receive the most benefits they possibly can.”

He expressed sympathy for row-crop producers, who he believes face some challenges he bypasses with his vegetables.

James Ruggeri of the Noble Lake community south of Pine Bluff produces cotton and soybeans on an 800-acre farm there. He said he’s going to require some clarification to gain a better understanding of the bill’s insurance issues.

“I want somebody to explain that to me,” he said, adding that Farm Bureau will likely have an informati0nal meeting on the bill soon and he intends to become more familiar with the measure.

The farm bill also deals with such matters as food stamps, which are to be trimmed by $8 billion over the next decade. Meanwhile, a concern that the price of a gallon of milk could double to $7 was alleviated by a provision in the measure.

The Rev. Kerry Price Sr., pastor of Breath of Life Church in Pine Bluff, was disappointed by the food stamp cuts. He said he realizes the government is trying to save money and combat abuse within the food stamp program, but he wishes people victimized by the trying economy wouldn’t be denied the assistance they might need.

“I know it’ll hurt some families,” said Price, whose church feeds the needy several times each week.

“Hunger doesn’t know black or white or young or old,” he said. “Don’t abuse those who aren’t abusing the system. There are more hungry people in this area than many probably realize. Our food pantries are being pushed to the limit. Sometimes they run out of food. I can’t stand the thought of a hungry child. No matter what happens, it’s not the child’s fault.”