Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

December 8, 2013

Federal Farm Bill frustration boiling over

BUCKLEY — Frank Lipinski farmed in northern Michigan land since 1952.

Lipinski, 79, watched booms and busts blow through the region. He’s survived too little rain, too much rain and saw the nation’s agricultural landscape transform from one dominated by small family farms to big agri-business.

But in six decades of farming Lipinski never saw anything like the brewing storm in Washington, D.C. over the nation’s Farm Bill, and the failure of Congress to pass the $1 trillion legislation.

“It’s unbelievable, the dysfunction that’s taking place in Washington, D.C. right now,” Lipinski said. “The Farm Bill was always an automatic deal for decades and decades. An automatic piece of legislation.

“Our biggest problem with not having a Farm Bill is all the uncertainty that goes along with it,” said Lipinski, who operates the Tralane Seed Farm in Buckley.

“It’s a big deal because farming is expensive,” he said. “It requires a lot of credit, and the banks and farmers are hanging out there not knowing what policy is going to be or what direction commodity prices might go. If you are a bank, do you want to loan $1 million to get next spring’s crop planted when no one has any idea what farm policy is going to look like?”

Prepare for sticker shock

Congress is now on its third try at passing a Farm Bill, with a final deadline arriving in January. Farmers are the ones most concerned, but several experts told the Record-Eagle that consumers and the poor also will suffer if legislation isn’t approved. Milk could jump to $6 to $8 a gallon. A pound of cheese could be $12, a loaf of bread $6.

“It gives me goose bumps,” said shopper Jessica Haas, of Lake Ann, as she retrieved a gallon of milk from a cooler at Oryana Natural Foods Market last week. “That’s quite a jump. People can’t spend that much. They’ve got kids and bills to pay.”

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