Virginia Grain Producers Association’s call for more effective and efficient farm protection programs should come as no surprise as Virginia continues to face terrible drought conditions. As the rest of the country’s grain farmers are enjoying a bumper corn crop, Virginia’s producers are experiencing serious and devastating crop losses with no end or help in site. The crop losses Virginia producers face this year have no protection as the current Federal Disaster Aid only covers those crops planted through February 2007. Just last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 78 counties and 34 independent cities in Virginia as primary natural disaster areas because of losses caused by drought and high temperatures.

The amount of loss varies in each county but yields are consistently lower than average and in some cases, considered a complete disaster. Some producers have harvested less than 1 bushel of corn per acre (where expected yield was 100+ bushel per acre [bu/a]). Others harvested 70 bu/a (where the expected yield was 180 bu/a). In other parts of the state where rain was more plentiful, producers have enjoyed average yields (70 bu/a to 120 bu/a.) in some fields. Unfortunately, these reports are few. While Virginia Grain Producers Association (VGPA) represents Virginia’s corn and small grains growers, we have also fielded numerous reports of wide-spread losses in other crops such as soybeans and hay due to the drought.

VGPA believes current farm programs simply do not provide an effective or efficient farm safety net and reform is needed. Producers recognize a revenue-based farm program will be far more effective especially as Virginia’s producers continue to face devastating crop losses due to the ongoing drought. The revenue-based farm bill would provide the protection a price-support program cannot. Although the amount of loss to Virginia’s producers varies, a smaller crop means less yield and lower yields mean reduced revenue. Because of the dramatic increase in production input costs such as land rent, labor, fertilizer and seed, many Virginia producers will be unable to cover their expenses this year.

As the Senate continues its development and mark up of the 2007 farm bill, Virginia Grain Producers Association reiterates the need for a revenue-based, countercyclical option inside Title I. Farmers must have the option to choose the safety net program that works the best for their operations. A state-based revenue countercyclical program (RCCP) provide producers with a better risk management tool, more affordable crop insurance premiums and higher levels of coverage while making more efficient use of taxpayer money.

The time is now to ensure agriculture producers are given better programs and better options to be more sustainable. It is our responsibility to ensure more efficient farm policy now.