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Farm Bill Fight Ahead

Will controversial farm subsidies remain in the next Farm Bill headed to Congress?
(NBC News) At Rocky Point Farms in Maryland it's hard to operate business as usual without a current Farm Bill.

"The challenge is not knowing where we are going what we are going to plant what we are going to need," says farmer Chuck Fry.

Both the House and Senate are proposing eliminating up-front payments designed to protect farmers from unexpected losses.

They'd transition to an insurance program that pays farmers after they experience a loss.

But lawmakers haven't determined exactly what that program will entail for farmers like Fry.

"That is big for us," Fry says, "it keeps us going another year."

Agricultural economist Jeffrey O'Hara says those subsidies also help consumers by stabilizing what's at the market.

"Prices are going to move, but it insures that prices are at a reasonably low level and are affordable for the consumer," he explains.

Conservative tax groups disagree.

They say the government is offering too much assistance to farmers at the expense of consumers.

"It is a gold-plated program where tax payers end up covering almost two-thirds of the cost for farmers who want to buy insurance," says Joshua Sewell of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

For all the uncertainties in the Farm Bill, the one thing that farmers do know is if something doesn't get passed by January the price of commodities will go up, starting with dairy.

That's because farmers will have to rely on laws put in place decades ago that determine the cost of food based on an outdated model.

It's partly that threat that has lawmakers determined to avoid another impasse.

Leaders in the House and Senate are expected to have their first serious negotiations about the Farm Bill next week.

Aside from from assistance to farmers, they'll also be debating cuts to the Food Stamp program.
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