News 12 at 6 o'clock, April 21, 2008
SALUDA COUNTY, S.C.---Some local farmers are worrying about the future of their farms, as Congress has until Friday to pass the 2008 Farm Bill. And experts say there's a good chance they'll cut back how much money farmers get.
"We can go a certain number of days without food but sooner or later, you gonna die," said William Bell.
Four generations of William Bell's family have run his Bell Farms. He's always loved it, but lately, times have been tough.
"The economy and the financial part of it have taken a lot of the fun out of it," he said.
He blames some of it on high fuel prices. When he started running the farm in 1977, diesel went for eight cents a gallon. Today about $4.15 is how much he pays.
One thing that helps is about three percent of his income comes from the government, but this week Congress may cut back, giving farmers less.
"We can't afford to have cuts. We need increases," Bell said.
Farmers across the country get money from the government. The Environmental Working Group says South Carolina farmers got more than a billion dollars from 1995 to 2006. In Georgia, around four billion during that same time period. Bell says a cut-back would really hurt his industry.
"I do think that I need to be able to stay in business to feed the world," he said.
Even though prices in the grocery store are up, Bell says that doesn't mean he's the one picking up the profit.
"It's all going to the middle people and the distribution process," he said.
He says most of the time he doesn't see any extra profit when food prices go up.
He's concerned about his farm's future, and says it's something for everyone to think about.
"A lot of money has been spent on the war trying to save petroleum but...What's more important? Petroleum or food...a meal on the plate?
Farmers like Bell are hoping for a full plate, both on his family's table and on his farm.
The 2008 Farm Bill was actually supposed to be passed last Friday, April 18, but President Bush gave Congress an extra week to make some changes. He's said if they cannot reach an agreement, they could extend the current law for at least a year.