Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

October 7, 2013

Shutdown creates uncertainty in farm community

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat — There is a lot to consider for the many Americans impacted by a recent government shutdown.

For Pauls Valley farmer Trey Lam, it could mean potential problems for more than those on furloughs, but adding to developing uncertainties about the agriculture community as a whole.

The increased attention toward a budget for the national government or the looming debt ceiling deadline have only further delayed just as crucial issues like the farm bill, which has failed to see a final version pass through both the House and Senate.

“We don’t have a farm bill, the farm bill expired on the last day of September also,” said Lam.

“It’s hard for farmers to make decisions right now.”

Lam, who depends on the land for his own livelihood, pointed out how the uncertainty is putting more pressure on farmers, who have already begun to purchase seeds for crops like winter wheat or begin preparations for next year’s rotation.

Information like harvest statistics, which can impact how much seed or even food will cost, is also not being provided and only makes it harder to make decisions that can make or break the next year.

“Because of this bill they never came together in conference… Going forward there’s a lot of uncertainty as to what farm policy will be,” said Lam, noting how the money they make on crop sales can fall dramatically if investors decide to put their confidence elsewhere.

“Government policy affects people’s decisions on how many acres of crops to plant and that in turn affects the futures market and prices.

“It’s hard to know what to plant if you don’t have a stable price.”

However, Lam added how this is even before one factors in how the past year went, as every year can bring the possibility of crop damage, for which farmers often turn to recoup from federal disaster assistance.

There may be some looking for answers from how much help they will be getting to when at this moment here in Garvin County, but will be forced to wait an undetermined time as local offices like the Farm Service Agency were temporarily shuttered earlier this week.

In the end, Lam believes it comes down to a lack of consensus between nationally elected leaders who have not been able to approve a bill as it has always been done or even passing it separated from a nutrition bill.

As the shut down has occurred, there is no idea when it will go back on the table and in the meantime everyone else still has to take care of their responsibilities.

“They may not have the information they need on their own farms and land to do what needs to be done,” said Lam, adding how agencies like the Natural Resource Conservation Service also depend on the farm bill as it lays out what funding or support they will receive from the federal government.

“I think most people are just disgusted with the whole process.”