Congress-approved Farm Bill means stability for local farmers

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After years of setbacks, a new, five-year farm bill finally awaits the President's signature. Local farmers say they're pleased with the bill, which boosts the crop insurance program and ends direct payments.

"It gives you a baseline to operate from really," said Scott County farmer Robb Ewoldt.

Monday, the Senate approved the nearly $1 trillion bill with a vote of 68-32. The compromise farm bill cleared the House last week after nearly three years of setbacks.

Ewoldt said he's most relieved about the bill's expansion of the federal crop insurance program.

"That was the one thing we said, 'Hey, we need to have this.' This is a program that actually works," said Ewoldt.

The program provides a safety net for farmers facing ever-changing weather and market conditions.

"We hope we don't need it, because if you have to use insurance, you're not making money. Nobody wants to farm the insurance money; we want to actually make a profit. But it protects us, so if we do have a bad year, we still get to farm the next year," said Ewoldt.

The new farm bill is expected to cut the federal budget deficit by $16 billion over the next decade. Monday, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin praised the bill for it's cost-saving measures.

"This is a good bill. It eliminates some of the programs that were wasteful and spent too much money on farmers and ranchers that frankly didn't need it," said Durbin.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, though, voted against the measure, saying there are simply too many things wrong with the bill.

"The payment limitations that I put in on what one farmer can get, so that we direct the bill towards small- and medium-sized farmers, are obliterated," said Grassley. "You're going to make a lot of agricultural decisions based upon what the law says, rather than what the marketplace says."

The bill, though, does eliminate subsidies known as "direct payments," or money automatically given to farmers, no matter what they produce.

Monday, Ewoldt said that's a good provision.

"Right when that came out, guess what our land rents did? They went up, $24 to $30. So, the subsidy never really went to the operator, it went to the land owner," said Ewoldt.

The White House says President Obama will sign the farm bill on Friday.