It was a time to celebrate farmers. But many farmers at the Jeff Davis Business Alliance's annual Farmer's Appreciation breakfast are worried about their future. They're concerned about the farm bill passed by the US Senate and the proposed funding cuts that would hit our farmers hard.
Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Mike Strain was the speaker this morning and spoke to audience about several issues facing agriculture right now.
The US Senate said yes, so it's off to the House of Representatives. The farm bill is set to make huge changes in the industry nationwide. Louisiana farmers will take a big hit.
"This farm bill is not fair, it is not equitable," said Dr. Strain. "It is especially not equitable to southern farmers."
The bill will cut direct payments for farmers by 20-30% for most crops across the country, but rice farmers will see a 60% cut if the bill passes.
"When you look at that, the loss of direct payments, that's a huge issue with how it affects our rice industry," said Dr. Strain.
The total loss would be around $132 million for the state according to Dr. Strain.
An amendment added to the bill will also force farmers with an adjusted gross income of $750,000 to pay a 15% premium on crop insurance. Dr. Strain does not agree with the plan.
"We have to have a strong crop insurance program," said Dr. Strain. "It's got to be fair and equitable. It cannot penalize our farmers. Farming is big business, and we have to protect that."
Bobby Hebert was named the 2012 Jeff Davis farmer of the years. He has been farming for 60 years, and he's concerned about the legislation.
"I hope we can do something about it, because rice has been left out," said Hebert.
He says the bill largely affects the future.
"There's a generation coming that's going to need all the help they can get," said Hebert. I won't be here forever."
Dr. Strain says this is an industry getting larger, including the new Lacassine Rail Facility, and farmers don't deserve the cuts.
"It is the fastest growing and largest industry in America and in Louisiana, and it must be protected," said Dr. Strain.
Dr. Strain also talked about how agriculture and farming has improved over the last couple of years. With new additions to southwest Louisiana, like the rail facility, things can only get better.
Both Louisiana senators, David Vitter and Mary Landrieu, voted against the bill. Now residents are encouraged to call their local representatives to voice their concerns with the legislation.