GRAIN GROWERS WARNED: FARM AID COULD TUMBLE

GRAIN GROWERS WARNED: FARM AID COULD TUMBLE

The deficit-inspired killing of wool and honey subsidies should sound a warning to farmers involved in other federal commodity programs, a top agricultural policy expert said.

As budget cutting continues, the commodity programs could become increasingly irrelevant, causing participation rates to fall, said Bob Young, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute of the University of Missouri at Columbia."The money's not there to get done what we want to get done," Mr. Young told attendees at the annual meeting of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association in Bismarck. "We're one (budget) reconciliation bill away from these commodity programs being moot for wheat and feed grains."

Budget pressures also limit chances the 1995 farm bill will include major changes in agricultural policy, said Gene Moos, the U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary in charge of commodity programs.

The Clinton administration endorses past "market-oriented" farm policy, and there's little possibility of increased farm spending, Mr. Moos said from Washington.

"Congress will probably spend most of its time just kind of fine-tuning around the edges the existing policy, looking for ways to make it more flexible, more efficient in the interests of the producer, but still trying to maintain as much income and price support as possible for U.S. producers."

Crafting of a farm bill is traditionally seen as major political event, as legislators attempt to bring order - and advantage to their constituents - out of the nation's multitude of agriculture-support programs. Jockeying over the 1995 measure will begin next year.

But federal budgets, not farm bills, now tend to determine agricultural policy, other agriculture experts say. For example, the 1990 Omnibus Reconciliation Act, not the farm bill, cut payments for 15 percent of acreage, they argue. The reconciliation act's ending of the subsidies for wool, mohair and honey production provides another case in point.