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Wheat Growers Call for Higher Target Price

by Mitch Lies
Capital Press, December 22, 2006

PORTLAND - A low target price and inadequate loan deficiency payment program in the 2002 Farm Bill put wheat growers at a disadvantage and need to be rectified in the 2007 bill, according to the president of the nation's largest wheat organization.

Speaking before wheat producers at the annual tri-state wheat convention, National Association of Wheat Growers President Dale Schuler said some parts of the current farm bill worked, such as the flexibility provisions Congress wrote into the 2002 bill, but other sections were fraught with inefficiencies and inadequacies.

Schuler was one of a panel of speakers to talk on the bill during a luncheon at the convention. Other speakers included Valoria Loveland, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture and head of the National Association of State Directors of Agriculture; and Don Stuart, Pacific Northwest states director of American Farmland Trust.

Schuler urged growers to ask their congressional representatives to push up the target price to $5.29, a figure, he said, that accurately represents the cost of producing a bushel of wheat. The current price of $3.92, he said, provides almost no benefit to growers.

Schuler also said the payment limitation of $40,000 is low, particularly given increased costs of production due to higher fuel, fertilizer and chemical prices.

The bottom line, Schuler said, is growers need sound and predictable support for production that meet World Trade Organization standards and that provide security in a volatile marketplace.

Stuart followed up Schuler's comments by saying his organization is proposing the 2007 Farm Bill fund a program he called green payments, where farmers are compensated for environmental services.

"We feel there are changes we need to make to protect the sustainable future of American agriculture," Stuart said.

Stuart said the bill needs to be farm-friendly, WTO-compliant and cost-effective.

Loveland called for Congress to establish a permanent disaster fund in the 2007 bill. "The insurance programs we have now are inadequate," she said, noting some producers had to wait two years for disaster assistance in recent years.

Loveland also called on Congress to dedicate some funds to researching hidden subsidies in foreign countries.

"The subsidies paid in other countries far exceed ours, but they call them something else," she said. "We need not just a free but a fair access to markets."

Loveland said specialty crop grants and money for crop research also need to be included in the next farm bill.

"Agriculture always needs research to stay profitable," she said. "We want Congress to step up investment in research."

Loveland added that rather than scaling back monetary requests in the next farm bill, producers should leverage the fact they are providing the public with food, fiber, feed and now fuel, and ask for more funds.

Mitch Lies is based in Salem.
Wheat Growers Call for Higher Target Price
Capital Press, December 22, 2006

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