The future of farming in the United States could lie in the hands of Lubbock area farmers, and their message is clear; don't change a thing.
The 2002 Farm Bill is up for renewal in 2007 and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns is hosting a handful of public forums to see what American farmers want. Farmers at the Lubbock forum don't want to change anything.
It was a standing ovation for Johanns in the standing room only crowd. "I'm excited to hear from Texans about the farm bill," Johanns told the crowd of hundreds.
Secretary Johanns wants to know what the 2007 Farm Bill should include. The vast majority said it should remain exactly the same as the 2002 bill. One person said, "We believe it works."
Weldon Melton, who has been farming nearly his entire life in hale county said, "Just rename it the 2007 Farm Bill." Melton likes it because it makes payments to farmers when prices are down. "Minimum wage they pay to people who build our tractors increases our cost, we've got to have some way to recoup that and the 2002 farm bill does that."
Secretary Johanns took notes as farmers told him they like that the current bill encourages younger farmers to join the industry. However, Dawson County farmer, Marion Snell said something has to be done about the growing problem of the cost of production outweighing income. "Counting the payment we get, the subsidy we get and the market, it's still not reaching the cost of production and we're mortgaging our land just to stay in business," says Snell
Secretary Johanns is aware of the problem. He doesn't have any immediate solutions, but said he's trying to help. "I think these are really huge important issues and issues we'll grapple with as we work with the House and Senate on what the next farm bill should look like."
Melton also realizes the need for more money. However, he's satisfied with the current bill. "All the commodity groups I've heard say keep the 2002 farm bill. That's our word right now, this program works, let's keep it," said Melton.
Officials in Washington will ultimately give the 2007 bill final approval.
You can look at previous comments and make your own comments on the proposed 2007 Farm Bill by on the following link (www.usda.gov/farm bill).