ICBA President and CEO Ken Guenther wrote farm bill conferees and farm state members on ICBA's positions concerning various farm bill issues. The letter thanked members for their work on a new bill and said, "It is important to lock in the full $73.5 billion over the next decade to provide farmers and their lenders with the ability to make long-term financial plans that are not subject to future cutbacks by Congress. We are pleased that both bills include a counter-cyclical payment support mechanism in the form of target prices that will help stabilize farm income during times of extremely low commodity prices. We also concur that the new farm bill should provide farmers with the tools necessary to be competitive in a global marketplace. These basic components to strengthening a farm safety net are essential to the long-term economic prosperity of American agriculture and our rural communities."
ICBA also told members that if a new farm bill is not completed by late March, before the next congressional recess, "it will be necessary to consider adopting a separate farm aid package that provides supplemental economic assistance for the 2002 crops and making the new farm bill applicable to the 2003 crops. Many bankers worked with producers on their cash flow projections assuming additional farm income support levels based on last year's government payments. But lenders and their farm customers want to finalize the future financial landscape so they have adequate information upon which to base decisions," stated ICBA's letter.
ICBA also urged members to carefully review proposed legislative language to be sure there aren't unintended consequences from well meaning provisions that could, if enacted, disrupt farming operations and jeopardize farmers' ability to secure financing. The letter included a significant number of recommendations on the farm credit and rural development titles of the farm bill (the letter and associated recommendations can be found on our Web site, www.icba.org, under "agricultural issues" and "farm bill"). The House named its conferees Feb. 28.