Farmers are not only being called upon to feed the nation, they are also being asked to play a major role in helping the country reduce its burgeoning debt.

For Utah farmers, as with farmers throughout the country, this will come in several forms, including cutbacks in government payments for crop acreage reduction, said Jay C. Andersen, Utah State University Extension economics specialist.The deficit reduction request is now part of the package wrapped in the form of a new farm bill, the 1990 Farm Act. It is the product of a much tighter national budget, the desire to increase agricultural competitiveness and escalating environmental concerns, said Andersen.

For farmers, this act is important because, in essence, it is now their marching order for the next five years in respect to crops they can and cannot plant. Planting compliance qualifies them to receive government payments for purposely reducing certain crop acreage in an effort to cut down on market glut. It also serves as a conservation guideline in planting and tillage, Andersen said.

Some crop provisions of the 1990 Farm Bill have been changed from previous farm acts. Part of these changes, according to Secretary of Agriculture Clayton Yeutter, comes from the need for flexibility to adjust to change in the international marketplace.

He said it is essential that the new farm bill "balance the need for an abundant, safe and affordable food supply with conservation and improvement of our environment."

Andersen said another major factor in formulating the farm bill was the federal deficit and the need to reduce the cost of all government entitlement programs, including payments the government makes to farmers for reducing certain crop acreage.

After intense congressional debate, the budget agreement calls for a $13.6 billion reduction in 1991-1995 government spending for agriculture. Farm program costs peaked at $26 billion in 1986. He said it is estimated that program costs over the next year alone will fall some $6.5 billion.

The very first farm bill was crafted shortly after World War II when farm commodity price support provisions were recodified in the Agricultural Act of 1949. This act still serves as the main U.S. farm law, Andersen said.

At five-year intervals, he said, a new farm act is passed which amends the 1949 act and supersedes the previous five-year farm act.

"This will cut payments to many farmers," he said. "However, if the deficit can be substantially reduced, the benefits to agriculture should be greater than reductions in government spending for agriculture."