In a Farm Foundation survey of 15,000 producers in 27 states, producers ranked renewable energy, enhancing opportunities for small and beginning farmers, and assuring a safe and affordable food supply as their top three goals for the next farm bill. Producers also indicated that bio-energy production and food-safety programs should receive new or additional funding.

When asked which existing programs should continue to receive funding, producers ranked disaster assistance and crop insurance at the top, followed by working land conservation programs, marketing loans, direct payments and countercyclical payments. Medium and large-size operations placed a higher priority on the safety net, while smaller operations placed a higher priority on working land conservation programs.

Other key findings included:

  • Payment limits enjoy support among all categories of farms, but support is greater among small farms than large farms.
  • Producers surveyed in seven states favor a fruit and vegetable support program but not necessarily one modeled on traditional commodity programs. Instead, they prioritize disaster assistance, crop insurance and block grants for state programs.
  • Respondents support technical and financial assistance to address conservation goals, particularly water quality and soil erosion control measures. Producers value continued support for the Conservation Reserve Program and the Conservation Security Program.
  • Respondents support free-trade negotiations and expanded trade opportunities. However, they also favor comprehensive negotiations that include food safety, labor and conservation issues. They favor negotiations that focus on domestic policy goals ahead of trade policy goals.
  • Producers favor country-of-origin labeling and prefer mandatory labeling over voluntary. Producers support mandatory animal ID programs. They also favor BSE testing, with preference for voluntary guidelines for testing by industry rather than government-mandated programs.
  • When asked about the expected future transition of their farm or ranch, more than half expect the transition to a family member.
  • Producers surveyed in three states supported ag credit programs, putting the highest priority on beginning farmer programs.
See the complete survey at www.farmfoundation.org.
-- P. Scott Shearer, Washington, D.C., correspondent