U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas is a veteran architect of multiple farm bills, and the latest reflects some of his best work yet.

The Senate has begun debate on a sensible bill that emerged from the Senate agriculture committee in April. As a member of the committee, Roberts had a hand in crafting yet another farm bill.

With this one, he and the other authors managed to trim federal farm programs to the tune of $24 billion over the next decade. They did it by making common-sense but long-needed reforms.

Most notably, the proposed bill eliminates $5 billion a year in direct payments to farmers, which they get whether or not they actually plant a crop. It is the most glaring flaw of current federal farm policy, something that has encouraged consolidation of agriculture justified by the goal of keeping prices down for consumers in the grocery store.

The new farm bill also does away with the current benefit farmers get when prices fall below a targeted level. Instead, the bill strengthens the safety net by putting more emphasis on crop insurance, protecting farmers from poor harvests because of drought and weather losses.

It also would establish a new “shallow loss” program, providing aid when revenue for a farmer falls 11 to 21 percent below a five-year moving average, with crop insurance protecting against the higher losses.

Southern growers, who struggle more with price fluctuations than weather, aren’t happy with protections against the market, so the components likely will be tweaked during debate. But overall this seems to be a good approach.

It is a more justifiable approach than current policy, which simply subsidizes farmers. It protects farmers from losses, thereby protecting the food supply. And it saves taxpayer money.

Good work, Senator.

— The Hutchinson News