LANE COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) — Congress is working on a new farm bill. The current version expires in September. Kansas farmers have been struggling in recent years, and there’s a lot at stake in the farm bill.
“Believe you me, I think you can cut any program without really threatening the viability of the program or the intent of the program,” said farmer Vance Ehmke, referring to crop insurance subsidies, which can impact more than just a farmer’s livelihood.
“Agriculture is such a big part of the Kansas economy,” said Justin Gilpin with the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers. “When we lose revenue on lost bushels, it doesn’t just hurt that on that farm. It hurts that rural community.”
Ehmke says the issue is not that simple.
“I think we farmers need to be looking at things from the American taxpayer point of view.”
He thinks those tax dollars can be more effective elsewhere and points to recent diseases and weather conditions devastating crops.
“If I were in charge,” he said, “I’d like to take a lot of crop insurance money and put it into research designed to eliminate the causes of crop loss in the first place.”
Those causes include droughts and wheat streak mosaic virus. Ehmke says he’s had success with certain varieties of wheat.
“Tatanka is one of them. Very drought hearty, very disease resistant wheat, and it probably yields at least five bushels an acre more than the average wheat variety that’s grown out there.”
Gilpin agrees that research and development is a necessary part of the farm bill.
“In conjunction with not only being able to combat viruses and diseases but also got to make sure it’s a high quality product that we can produce, that we can compete globally around the world.”