By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
POCATELLO – Idaho farmers and ranchers are less reliant on government payments than U.S. agriculture as a whole.
That means that any impacts on agriculture from the federal government shutdown would, on a percentage basis, be felt to a lesser degree in Idaho.
University of Idaho’s annual “Financial Condition of Idaho Agriculture” report projects that federal government payments to Idaho farmers and ranchers declined 19 percent to $132 million in fiscal year 2018.
Report co-authors Garth Taylor and Ben Eborn estimate that payments from the federal government accounted for 21 percent of total U.S. net farm income in fiscal 2018. They accounted for 15 percent of Idaho’s total net farm income.
Just on a percentage basis, that means Idaho farmers are about 25 percent less reliant on government payments than the average U.S. farmer is.
Idaho, which is a major agricultural state, ranks third among the 11 Western states in total farm cash receipts and ranks No. 1 in the production of four farm commodities (potatoes, food trout, barley and Austrian winter peas), No. 2 in five commodities (hops, sugar beets, alfalfa hay, peppermint oil and wrinkled seed peas), third in milk and cheese production and fourth in the production of bulb onions, lentils and spring wheat.
But Idaho received less than 1 percent of total federal government payments to U.S. agriculture last year.
“Farmers in Idaho do not farm the government,” Taylor told lawmakers Jan. 3 while discussing the highlights of the “Financial Condition of Idaho Agriculture” report.
Most of the government payments Idaho farmers and ranchers received last year came from conservation programs and from the Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage programs, which help compensate growers when commodity prices are low.
PLC and ARC are revenue protection programs that are based on yields and prices and if they fall below certain levels, that triggers payments to producers.
Eborn said most of the ARC and PLC payments Idaho producers received in fiscal 2018 were related to low grain prices.
Idaho also received a small amount of milk program and disaster program payments.
The fact that Idaho producers are less reliant on government payments means they will be less susceptible than the average U.S. farmer to any impacts from the federal government shutdown.
According to American Farm Bureau Federation officials, the shutdown is not having a major impact on agriculture but the longer it lasts, the worse it will get on issues like the securing of loans and crop insurance as well as disaster and trade programs. It has also delayed implementation of some important provisions of the farm bill, according to AFBF.
During AFBF’s annual convention in New Orleans Jan. 15, Farm Bureau voting delegates from states around the nation voted to adopt a policy that urges the administration and Congress to work together to end the government shutdown as soon as possible.