<CENTER><B>Farm income projections<br> show U.S. agricultural<br> policy fails producers</B></CENTER>

Net farm income is projected to increase $2.6 billion this fall, but nearly half of that income will come from direct government payments.

"This is not the way a good, wise and fair farm policy should work," said Nobles County Farmers Union president R.J. Mulder. "It's time Congress recognizes that the Freedom to Farm Act has failed and that there is no fairness in the 1996 Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act."

Direct government payments have increased from $7.3 billion in 1996 to a projected $22.7 billion this year, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That increase came during a time when proponents of a new farm policy said increased market income would replace an ever-declining pool of government payments, which were scheduled to be eliminated in 2002.

"Farmers want a price from the marketplace - not a check from the government," Mulder said. "But for that to happen, farmers need leverage in the marketplace that current U.S. farm policy does not provide."

Since 1996, commodity prices have dropped 45 percent for wheat, 49 percent for corn, 35 percent for soybeans, and the floor price for milk has fallen 13 percent. During that same time, the surplus amount of wheat and soybeans has grown 250 percent while the corn surplus has shot up 512 percent.

The value of agricultural exports has dropped from $60 billion in 1996 to $49 billion this year during a time when the North American Free Trade Agreement, the discussion of globalized trade policies in the World Trade Organization and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China were supposed to help U.S. farmers export their way to prosperity.

Farmers Union believes that Congress must raise marketing loan rates, extend the period in which farmers can repay those loans, increase the dairy support price and enact measures that stop the market and corporate concentration that is crippling rural America.

"The facts make it clear that this farm policy is not working," Mulder said. "Congress must revamp federal farm policy so it's fair to taxpayers and the farmers who produce this nation's food supply."

Comment Here