In testimony before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Dee Vaughan expressed concerns that Congress is considering re-opening the farm bill.

Citing farm programs as a true success story and a viable safety net for farmers, Vaughan, along with other commodity representatives, reiterated current farm policy allows farmers more predictability with their crops, better fiscal discipline and programs that limit assistance to the times when aid is most needed.

Vaughan noted U.S. corn growers find themselves in a much more favorable commodity market as a result of established farm programs that have attributed to the growth in ethanol production, increases in exports and record production levels. Therefore, he said, farmers need Congress to stay the course and resist opening the farm bill.

“Recent projections for the year’s corn crop indicate an increase of 800,000 acres to 71.9 million acres (harvested). Corn utilization is expected to climb by 100 million bushels to a record level exceeding 10.5 billion bushels. The outlook for corn is certainly encouraging, but growers continue to face serious challenges,” he said.

Mid-course changes, including proposals to further restrict farm support payments are extremely inequitable, Vaughan continued, noting that without the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act safety net, corn growers would face serious challenges and uncertainty in the marketplace.

He explained farmers face many risks year in and year out and the safety net of the counter-cyclical payment program protects U.S. growers when prices plummet. Further analysis is needed to insure the marketing loan program keeps pace with local market changes. In the end, farmers prefer to receive financial returns from the market.

Vaughan also touched on NCGA’s concern over conservation programs not being implemented and managed with the farmer in mind. Noting that common problems still remain, he urged the committee to look at the lack of outreach to growers, the domination of state technical committees by non-farm organizations or individuals, failure to recognize the economic challenges growers face, and minor conservation and environmental problems.

Vaughan also pointed out the underlying threat to corn growers throughout the U.S. — lack of a comprehensive energy package. “The bottom line is that rising energy costs and increased costs for seed and pesticides are largely responsible for driving up overall production expenses by over 6 percent in 2003. Just last year, the entire farm sector experienced a 30.8 percent increase in fuel expenses.”

Vaughan concluded, “Today’s farm bill enables corn growers to make further advances in food production, renewable energy and conservation practices that would not be possible otherwise. In fact, farm programs have helped to create new opportunities resulting in additional benefits for both producers and the American taxpayer.