By MATTHEW WEAVER
The American Malting Barley Association is urging Congress to pass a farm bill soon.
Both the Senate and House versions of the bill would be beneficial, association vice president and technical director Scott Heisel said.
"Barley in the past has not gotten very good treatment in some of the farm bills," he said. "This at least brings more equity. It does no harm to barley."
Under the House version of the bill, a new program would give farmers the options to protect against price or revenue drops. It would be tied to current production.
Heisel said the barley target price of $4.95 is 106 percent of its five-year average price, a ratio significantly higher than any other program crop. It makes barley a more attractive planting option for growers that consider government support as a major factor in planting decisions, he said.
The important thing about both versions of the bill is preserving crop insurance, which provides the best protection for the grower against adverse crop conditions, Heisel said.
Heisel said all barley producers can do is ask House legislators to pass a version to compare with the Senate's version and move toward a final Farm Bill.
He's not sure of the likelihood of a final version that's satisfactory for barley producers.
"Like all politics these days, I couldn't tell you what's going to happen next," he said.
Possibilities include a year extension of the existing Farm Bill, a new bill or several months of delay before a new version.
"If it happens tomorrow, it wouldn't be too soon," Heisel said.
The association has been working to support growers and joined other commodities in looking for a new bill.
"Uncertainty for the growers is uncertainty for the industry as well," Heisel said.
But the growers have to grow something with or without a farm bill, he said. The industry will continue to rely on contracts and some open-market barley.
"We'll do OK, but we want to make sure overall growers are healthy," Heisel said. "The safety net the Farm Bill provides will ensure that."
Heisel says barley won't be more or less affected than any other crop without a farm bill.
"It just leaves that uncertainty to all growers," he said. "If the House and Senate don't come to some agreement over this financial crisis, there will be significantly less money to write a farm bill."