By Steve Leer
No one could
blame Kendell Culp for skipping the evening news.
Jasper County farmer has enough going on around him to keep his
mind occupied: raising 1,600 acres of row crops, tending a couple
hundred head of cattle and preparing to move from farrow-to-finish
sows to a wean-to-finish operation this spring.
he's being pulled in several directions at once, Culp, who farms
with his father, Kenneth, still manages to keep up on current events.
These days, he's especially attuned to reports about the progress
of the 2002 farm bill.
he's read about the bills that are in the U.S.
House and Senate, picked
apart the fiscal numbers and even spoken to his congressman about
the legislation. He says whatever is eventually approved by Congress
and signed by President George Bush will have a direct impact on
him and his livelihood--just like the existing 1996
current bill has put a safety net under all of us in agriculture.
Maybe not as strong a safety net as a lot of us would like to see,
but the idea was good," Culp says. "We wanted a market-based,
market-oriented bill, and that's what I felt like we had."
bill, intended to gradually move farmers off federal support payments,
came to be known as "Freedom to Farm." The bill marked
a seismic shift in government's role in agriculture and was as loudly
criticized by its opponents as it was praised by its supporters.
was in favor of Freedom to Farm, and still am," Culp says.
"Obviously, there can be some modifications to it. But I'm
not one who wants to throw out the whole concept and start over
may have other ideas. As House and Senate negotiators craft a final
2002 farm bill, it appears the mood on Capitol Hill is leaning toward
a return to a more subsidy-driven federal agriculture policy.
bills in the two chambers broaden the size and scope of federal
assistance available to farmers. Both bills would earmark about
$170 billion for agriculture over the next 10 years.