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Seeking Fairness for Nevadans in the Farm Bill

June 6, 2012

LAS VEGAS - Congress is ready to debate the new Farm Bill, and some in Nevada believe the current version does not have a lot to offer farmers in the state.

As the Senate takes up the legislation this week, Bonnie Bobb, director of the Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, says the bill may deliver some positive improvements to federal farm policy, but it could do a lot more to benefit Nevada ranchers, Native Americans and farmers.

"We have a lot of livestock ranchers and Indian tribes; now we are starting to see a lot of sustainable farms and organic starting up - and they're kind of forgotten in the Farm Bill."

Those who favor the current version of the bill argue that adding restrictions would place an undue burden on producers. Bobb says taxpayers forked out nearly $9 billion to subsidize farmers' crop insurance benefits. And yet, from 1995 through 2010, she says Nevada farmers received less than $10 million in return.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., would like to restore basic conservation provisions as part of receiving crop insurance, so that this subsidy benefits environmentally sensitive land instead of damaging it. Bobb says Congress needs to get the priorities right for people who are hungry - not only in Nevada but across the nation.

"What we'd like to see is a shift from the commodity and crop insurance subsidies to more nutrition-based programs for the people who are really hungry and really suffering."

Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., would like to see what they call "meaningful limits" on crop insurance so that the nation's wealthiest farmers won't receive unlimited subsidies. Bobb hopes Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, will ensure the bill gets a full and fair debate.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV