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ARCHIVED  March 1, 1996

Farmers await final version of revolutionary Farm Bill

House and Senate members in Washington, D.C., may be taking their time producing a new farm bill, but Mother Nature doesn’t play politics.
So countless farmers in Northern Colorado and elsewhere are nearing — or already have entered — their spring planting season without knowing what will happen with crop subsidies, land conservation and wetlands programs, and other farm-related assistance programs.
Farm bills — actually, amendments to the 1949 Agriculture Adjustment Act — are revived about every five years. The latest promises to offer the most sweeping changes since the Act’s inception. The Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill earlier this year, and the House approved its version in late February.
“Typically, there is not this much delay,´ said Chris Bastian, agriculture marketing specialist at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. “The Republican Congress had a lot on its agenda with the Contract With America, and the Farm Bill fell to low priority.”
Particulars of the House and Senate versions will be hashed out and likely melded into a final Farm Bill that will go to the president’s desk.
“It will probably happen in March, because it basically has to,” Bastian said.
Since 1985, farm bills have been moving toward reducing price supports and subsidies to farmers. This year’s version could recommend that subsidies, which rise and fall with market prices, could be phased out over the next seven years. Colorado farmers received $175.8 million in subsidies in 1994.
In Colorado, approximately 1.9 million acres of land should remain in the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays land owners to not farm and to restore environmentally sensitive areas.
A much-debated concern is whether a reduction in subsidies, and their eventual phasing out, will force young, heavily indebted farmers out of business while making large producers even larger.
The proposed bills include a Freedom to Farm provision, which would cease payments to farmers for not planting crops and would stop restricting what they grow.
“We probably are looking at farmers going out of business and rural communities being affected,” Bastian said.

House and Senate members in Washington, D.C., may be taking their time producing a new farm bill, but Mother Nature doesn’t play politics.
So countless farmers in Northern Colorado and elsewhere are nearing — or already have entered — their spring planting season without knowing what will happen with crop subsidies, land conservation and wetlands programs, and other farm-related assistance programs.
Farm bills — actually, amendments to the 1949 Agriculture Adjustment Act — are revived about every five years. The latest promises to offer the most sweeping changes since the Act’s inception. The Senate passed its version of the Farm…

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