Moreover, when Schnitkey looked back at historical prices for commodities during the 37-year period from 1975 to 2011 and set the soybean and corn target prices at 77 percent, wheat at 93 percent, and rice and peanuts at 106 percent of those average historical prices, Schnitkey found that this disparity in treatment of commodities resulted in dramatic differences in the safety net support offered to producers of crops. Schnitkey’s analysis showed:

A target price for soybeans that is 77 percent of long-run price results in payments in only two out of 37 years, representing a payment in 5 percent of the years.

A target price for corn that is 77 percent of the long-run average would have made payments in four out of 37 years, representing a payment in 11 percent of the years.

A target price for wheat that is 93 percent of long-run price results in payments in twelve out of 37 years, representing a payment in 32 percent of the years.

A target price for peanuts that is 106 percent of long-run price results in payments in 20 out of 37 years, representing a payment in 54 percent of the years.

A target price for rice that is 106 percent of long-run price results in payments in 23 out of 37 years, representing a payment in 62 percent of the years.

“Our top priority in this entire farm bill process has been to maintain planting flexibility,” said ASA First Vice-President Danny Murphy, a farmer from Canton, Miss.

“We want the marketplace to influence our planting decisions, not the potential for a payment through a government program. If farmers see there’s a lopsided and likely government payment coming in one crop or group of crops, there’s real potential there for significant planting distortions. The inequitable safety net among crops also could cause farmers or their lenders to favor the planting of certain crops.”

As an alternative to the target price program espoused by the House, soybean farmers have advocated the revenue-based Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program currently in the Senate’s version of the bill.

Additionally, ASA has suggested that if a target price program is to be included in the House Agriculture Committee’s bill, it should be fully decoupled from current year planting decisions, similar to the current Counter-Cyclical Payment program that uses target prices.

“What the Schnitkey analysis tells us is that inequitable target price levels among crops will result in real disparities in safety net protection for farmers. Such disparities in government safety net support is bound to influence planting decisions,” added Murphy.

“Regardless of what comes out in the end, soybean farmers need to have a risk management program that treats soybeans equitably with other crops and avoids government-induced planting distortions.”

For a full transcript of Schnitkey’s study, please click here.