Just because the new farm bill was passed doesn't mean wheat farmers get to rest, says the new president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers.
Connell, Wash., wheat farmer Jeff Shawver began his one-year term as president in November during the Tri-State Grain Growers Convention in Portland.
Efforts to pass a new farm bill were high on WAWG's list in recent years. Shawver said he is pleased with the new bill, which he said provides farmers some guidance and direction for the next four years.
He particularly welcomed the ability for farmers to change between their crop insurance options.
Under the bill, the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs are both reauthorized with improvements made to both, WAWG executive director Michelle Hennings said.
Farmers will have the opportunity to re-elect programs beginning with the 2019 crop year. Beginning with the 2021 crop year, farmers can either maintain the farm program they picked or pick a different program each year.
But the government shutdown, affecting the USDA Farm Service Agency, is a concern, Shawver said.
"It puts a damper on farmers getting to use the farm bill now," he said.
Shawver's priorities also include maintaining trade into Asian markets and Mexico.
"Those Asian markets are huge for our state," he said.
WAWG will speak with legislators in Olympia this month and in Washington, D.C., in February to ensure that the importance of trade is not forgotten.
About 90 percent of Washington's wheat is exported.
"It's very valuable, as long as we keep pushing it and making it number one, we will get (trade) back to where it needs to be and also hopefully get the price back up," Shawver said.
Shawver started farming in 2008-2009, joining his wife's family farm after they were married. He farms on nearly 6,000 acres. He was previously in sales and construction in Western Washington.
"I enjoy what I'm doing," he said. "I like the freedom I get by farming, I like working the ground. I make my choices and look at what the neighbors are doing and follow what they're doing, so we're all on the same page."
Connell said he is grateful for the opportunity to help growers succeed.
"I got involved because I knew there was more than just working ground," he said. "I got involved because there's another side to farming - the business side, the politics side and farm programs that I want to keep around."
Shawver said he hopes to meet with most farmers and hear about their concerns.
He expects to get more familiar with the new farm bill as the year progresses. If he had his way, the next one would already be underway.
"It'd be nice if they started working on the next farm bill so it's ready to go," he said with a laugh. "They always struggle to get a Farm Bill passed."