Navigating the 2014 farm bill

2014 farm bill changes landscape

typical Minnesota farm

Extension education helps farmers navigate options

The federal farm bill is intended to build stability into agriculture—and security for farmers—to help ensure a reliable, affordable food supply. Helping farmers make solid business choices translates into a stronger economic foundation in Minnesota, where agriculture is the second-largest industry.

More than 15,000 farmers and farm advisers recently attended Extension crops and dairy seminars on the 2014 farm bill. Many more used Extension's online farm bill tutorials.

Cokato farmer Kevin Dahlman learned how to plan for the impact of the 2014 farm bill on his corn and soybean operation. "The information presented made it real and manageable for farmers as we look at the tools we have to make decisions," says Dahlman, co-owner of a Wright County-based seed company. He credits Extension with presenting realistic scenarios as agricultural economists predict market volatility for the coming years.

Federal farm policy shifts

Previous farm bills emphasized direct payments to farmers to help them withstand poor harvests and low prices. The 2014 bill shifts from direct payments into a risk-management model. Dairy producers can revise their choices yearly; crop growers are locked into five-year decisions.

"This is the most complex farm bill yet. But it's also a strong program, presenting farmers with the opportunity to make thoughtful choices, using online tools to guide their selections," says Bob Craven, Extension agricultural economist in the University of Minnesota Center for Farm Financial Management. "It's an important step, one that can help keep farms intact."

The farm bill mandated that Extension nationwide partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) on education. In Minnesota, FSA staff and Extension educators and economists fanned out to 72 counties for the seminars. U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who represents Minnesota's 1st Congressional District and is recognized as a driving force behind the 2014 Farm Bill, attended dairy and crops sessions.

"The work done by Extension economists and crop and livestock specialists at our land-grant universities during program sign-up was more important than ever," says Peterson, the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee. "Their knowledge and education help farmers navigate their options in the new farm bill and determine the best safety net for their farm."

Visit Extension's farm bill education website for resources and information.

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