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federal farms, commerce, agricultural economics


Federal government policies significantly affect the behavior of farmers in South Dakota, the North Central region, and the nation as a whole. In general, producers favor programs that provide income support and protect them from the full impact of free market adjustments. Farmers and ranchers in 27 states were surveyed during the spring of 200 l. The survey contains questions about farm income and risk management, conservation and environmental policies, trade, food labeling, the changing structure of agriculture, producer demographics, and a series of optional questions. In South Dakota, 1500 producers received surveys and 325 returned completed forms. Most producers favor proposals that either continue commodity programs introduced in the 1996 farm bill or that would increase funding levels. Only about 20% of producers favor eliminating all direct support programs. They also support the continuation of support for "traditional" crops and expanding dairy compacts to the whole country. Producers feel the government has an essential role in providing incentives to encourage the provision of environmental benefits. They also believe that the conservation reserve program should be continued at current or expanded levels. The majority of producers feel that they benefit from international trade and that trade barriers should be eliminated. They also believe that labor issues, the environment, and food safety should be part of trade negotiations. Approximately half of producers believe that countries should be allowed to use trade restrictions to pursue domestic goals. The vast majority of producers favor country of origin labeling and labeling to identify the presence of biotechnology in food products. They also think the government should improve the traceability of food products and ingredients. Most producers would like to see federal farm and rural credit programs either continued at current levels or increased. They would also like to see programs targeted to beginning farmers and producers in low-income areas and for income support programs to be targeted to small farms. Producers also trust the government to collect and distribute market information and that the government should more effectively enforce antitrust laws or strengthen those laws. Producers are also quite concerned about the availability of a future agricultural workforce. Most producers are 45 years of age or older, have at least a high school education, own most of the land they farm, are not members of an agricultural organization, and expect their current operation to be passed on to a family member when they retire. The majority of producers receive income from one or more government farm programs, use some type ofrisk management tools, and are the 3rd generation or less to run the current operation.


Economics Research Report No. 03-1