Celebrate agriculture, don't stifle agriculture

The REFRESH Act would eliminate the practice of writing checks every year to farmers regardless of need, which causes significant inflation of land rents and other input costs. It would do this by scrapping the $5 billion annual direct payment system that manipulates markets and restricts farmers’ freedom by barring them from planting certain crops on their land.

To provide a genuine safety net for our nation’s food producers, we’ve proposed an aggregate risk and revenue management program that protects farmers against “shallow losses.” Unlike direct payments currently in place, this program would not blindly send money out the door, but rather only when farm revenues actually fall and farmers are truly in need. This program would complement the proven private-public crop insurance market for catastrophic loss that covered 255 million acres last year.

Our bill tackles other specific programs that hurt America’s economy. For instance, thanks to technocratic price-fixing, U.S. consumers today pay nearly double for their sugar. Government manipulation of the sugar market levies an indirect tax of an extra $4 billion each year in food prices. Such stringent controls and artificial barriers should be the antiquated relics of the Eastern bloc, not mainstays of U.S. policy. Our legislation would end the current system of trade quotas and tariff barriers, promoting competition and increased quality for domestic sugar users.

American dairy farmers face their own labyrinth of regulations and controls. Our REFRESH Act would give dairymen simple, voluntary risk management tools. By eliminating a complicated dairy price support program and milk income loss contract program, we offer producers the option to participate in a simpler insurance system. While not perfect, these reforms would move the future of dairy toward a freer market with, we believe, significant backing from the often-divided dairy community.

And, perhaps most importantly, our bill plans for the future of this vital sector. By promoting agricultural research that improves productivity, reduces imports and identifies alternative markets for agricultural and waste products, our bill ensures that America’s agricultural sector will remain a global leader for years to come.

We are proud that American agriculture does not need the federal government to make its decisions. In a globally competitive marketplace, American agriculture has remained on top because of efficient use of land, machinery, science and technology. As we celebrate National Agriculture Day today, we celebrate the fact that America’s farmers and ranchers will continue to grow even more successful, remaining the world’s leader in feeding growing populations, IF our government programs stay out of their way. 

Lugar and Stutzman are Indiana Republicans, family farm owners and members of their respective Senate and House Agriculture committees.

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