State legislatures in the heart of the Midwest, all
but overwhelmed by bursting budgets, are struggling with the mounting
dilemma of how to help farmers who are facing financial ruin.
Many of the farm leaders, economists and the lawmakers themselves
in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska view the farm crisis
as a national problem, with international aspects.
State lawmakers say they know too well there is a limit to what
they can do beyond adopting resolutions urging Congress to act.
Several states are trying to buy time for strapped farmers and ease
the pain of transition for those of them who are simply giving up and
moving to other kinds of work.
Meantime, economists say, the Reagan Administration is battling to
reduce federal aid to farmers, which they say increases the need for
states to take an active role to fully utilize remaining federal
Several farm aid projects are either in motion or under discussion
in Kansas. Iowa is trying to educate its farmers on the intricacies
of federal loans.
Missouri lawmakers are considering a bill to provide state loans
to farmers. In Oklahoma, they are talking of a limited moratorium on
farm and ranch foreclosures. And Nebraska is considering legislation
to allow farmers facing foreclosure to retain at least a part of
their land and holdings.
""There is a limit to what the states can do,'' said Barry
Flinchbaugh, a Kansas State University agricultural economist and
policy analyst. ""The states are not going to be able to change the
basic problems such as increasing farm income, decreasing interest
rates, bringing down the value of the dollar and so on.''
One of the toughest areas for farmers and lawmakers alike in all
five states is farm credit. Interest rates have been a particularly
troublesome problem for farmers dependent on loans to finance their
Lawmakers also are looking long and hard at the emotionally
charged issue of increasing farm and ranch foreclosure actions.
Coupled with this are programs providing counseling to farm families
facing the loss of everything they own.
While land grant universities in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa
and Nebraska all are providing such counseling services, the Kansas
Legislature went on to create the Farm Assistance Counseling and
Training Referal Program, called FACTS, in 1985.
The program is a joint effort by the Kansas Department of
Agriculture and K-State's Cooperative Extension Service. Its first
year of operation was funded by $300,000 appropriated by legislators.
Since it began operating in July, FACTS has received more than 1,600
calls from people seeking help with financial, legal or job
Kansas legislators also enacted the Emergency Farm Credit Relief
Act in 1985. …