Farm bill fiscally responsible

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The groundhog up in Pennsylvania saw his shadow, I understand, suggesting that we are looking at six more weeks of winter. Since the first day of spring normally doesn’t arrive until March 20, that sounds about right and I really don’t like forecasted weather based on a varmint pulled from its den against its will in the early morning hours. Where is PETA when you need them?

I’ve often wondered where that tradition came from anyway, and thanks to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, I learned that German immigrants brought this way of predicting weather to Pennsylvania way back in the 1800s. It seems over in Europe, for centuries, people have thought if an animal came out of hibernation and saw its shadow around this time,
then winter would last for a while longer. At least that’s what my Old Farmer’s Almanac planner says and it never has informed me wrong.

It seems the English watched bears and the Germans kept an eye on badgers. When the Germans got to America, they couldn’t find any badgers, so they used the groundhog to plan on how long to stretch the firewood supply. Should have been a sign to them that since there were no badgers, the forecast wouldn’t work in these parts.

We didn’t have any groundhogs to come out in Tennessee because the sun didn’t shine at all and we didn’t have anyone in top hats get up that early to pull one out of a hole either. So I guess spring will show up when it wants to and we
will just have to wait as we always do.

We may not have had any shadows seen to predict the weather, but we did have a few Tennessee elected officials come out and vote to help Tennessee farmers prepare for this year’s spring planting. On February 4, the U.S. Senate passed the Agriculture Act of 2014, better known as the farm bill to most of us. Back on January 29, the U.S. House did the same thing.

Now all the legislation lacks is the signature of the President. Hopefully this will be taken care of soon, giving our farmers a chance to farm knowing what safety nets are available and those that are not. It has been five years in the making and a long time for farmers to wait. Congress has been somewhat like the groundhog, only they haven’t come out of their
den as often, and it has remained cloudy a pretty long time on our farmsteads. Hopefully these votes will bring an earlier spring for Tennessee farmers.

In a statement from Tennessee Farm Bureau President Lacy Upchurch, he summed it up best when he expressed that he felt the legislation is fiscally responsible. Upchurch said, “The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation commends the U.S. Senate for passage today of the new five-year farm bill. While it’s been a long road to get to this point, we are pleased with the bi-partisan support of this legislation from both the Senate and House.

This bill, with the President’s signature, will allow our farmers to move forward this year with certainty in their business
decisions and give them confidence in preparing for another crop. Agriculture is our most important industry in Tennessee, contributing billions of dollars to our economy each year. We are really glad to see that this farm bill is fiscally
responsible, saving taxpayers more than $16 billion over the next decade by eliminating direct payments and strengthening risk management tools.” We especially want to thank Sen. Lamar Alexander for his support and vote of the farm bill along with our delegation in the House, including Rep. Dianne Black, Rep. Stephen Fincher and Rep. Phil Roe.”

After five years of waiting and talking to their congressmen, farmers have a farm bill that expands crop insurance, simplifies payments and spends dollars on crop research. It is reported the five-year piece of legislation is projected to cost nearly $1 trillion over the next decade. The Senate sent the legislation to President Obama for his signature
and from there it goes to the Department of Agriculture to implement. At least we have a program that will now last
for a period that will give the farm community some stability and allow for future planning at all levels of agricultural
development, research, education and production. This is better than predicting the weather with a varmint any day.

Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by email at

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