WASHINGTON -- The Reagan administration should overhaul its farm policies to focus on family farmers and offer them more of the help they need to stay in business, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower said Monday night.
'We've got to have a farm policy for a change that focuses on the farmer,' Hightower told a meeting of the Newspaper Farm Editors of America.
In the past, he said, farm policy has been concerned more with foreign policy and other market conditions than with the needs of commercial farmers.
He blamed presidential administrations throughout the last 30 years for the nation's 'bad farm policy.'
But he singled out President Reagan for failing to correct current problems.
'Ronald Reagan has no farm policy,' Hightower said. 'He may be a nice guy, but Ronald Reagan's idea of a good farm program is 'Hee Haw'.'
Farmers have complied with Agriculture Department urgings to become more sophisticated in farm management and marketing techniques, he said. But even with those efforts, farmers have been left 'productive, innovative and broke,' he added.
If the problem continues, the farm population will continue to decline for the rest of the decade, he said.
Hightower suggested the government might increase target prices - the prices designated by the government as desirable sales levels -- to equal the costs of crop production.
He also questioned predictions of success for the payment-in-kind program, noting it is not yet clear the program will succeed in a long-term reduction of crop surpluses.
The program, which promises government surplus crops to farmers who leave big portions of their land idle, is really 'a program to clean up the farm mess' that already exists in the form of huge supplies and weak demand -- not a new effort to rebuild the farm economy, he said.