Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Tuesday 01/28/14

More Commentary on the Farm Bill

Can the National Cattlemen's Beef Association squash the farm bill?

More statements are rolling out both supporting and opposing the farm bill as it heads to the floor on Wednesday.

As DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom reported, NCBA President Scott George said Tuesday his group was willing to bring down the bill over COOL even though the bill would provide aid to livestock producers who have experienced disasters.

Disaster aid, George said, is a “Band-Aid” compared with trade retaliation. But he added that if the bill is defeated, NCBA will continue to work for disaster aid.

NCBA was joined in opposition by Heritage Action, an arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, which came out Tuesday opposing the farm bill as well. Heritage criticized the inclusion of food programs in the legislation again, citing that 80% of the total spending in the bill is tied to nutrition programs.

Heritage also explains that while some bad subsidies and program were removed, lawmakers replaced them with even riskier taxpayer-funded programs. The inclusion of the Senate’s Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program is of deep concern. An initial CBO score suggested the average cost of about $2.9 billion per year, but an analysis by the American Enterprise Institute found the program “could cost as much as $7 billion annually based on the 15-year historical average price.” The inclusion of the House’s Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program is similarly problematic, setting the baseline for these commodity prices higher than what would be necessary to cover major losses. These baseline scoring gimmicks could wipe out all the “savings” that negotiators are touting in the conference report.

Still, much of the commentary on the farm bill Tuesday was by groups supporting the bill. Support even came from groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists

“The bill includes reforms that could sow the seeds for a sustainable food and agriculture system," said Daniel Brito, senior Washington representative for UCS’s Food & Environment Program. "Programs that incentivize increasing access to healthy foods, developing regional food systems, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices are included and funded at higher levels. But these programs should be the core of this legislation instead of on the periphery. This Farm Bill, like many before it, still reinforces a food system rooted in overproduction of ingredients for processed food that tax our health and our environment.

“Transitioning to a sustainable food and farm system will not happen overnight. The Farm Bill is still the best avenue to start making this transition and this bill at least contains nuggets of improvement. There is always more work to be done, but for now, we urge Congress to put an end to the almost two years of uncertainty and pass the Farm Bill.”

Chuck Ross, President of National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, expressed optimism and urged support of the legislation.

"We are encouraged by the progress made by the Farm Bill conferees and we ask that members in the House and Senate, on both sides of the aisle, act quickly to pass this bill," said Ross. "While the bill might not be perfect, our farmers and ranchers need the certainty of a long-term Farm Bill as they feed, clothe, and provide fuel for consumers in the states and beyond. Further delay will only disadvantage our agricultural producers and our rural communities."

The American Farm Bureau Federation called on lawmakers to quickly pass the bill in a statement by AFBF President Bob Stallman. “The American Farm Bureau Federation urges House and Senate members to pass H.R. 2642, the 2014 Farm Bill. The bill will provide farmers and ranchers certainty for the coming year and allow the Agriculture Department to begin planning for implementation of the bill’s provisions.

“We appreciate the hard work of the conferees to get the farm bill to this point. They had many tough decisions to make, but were able to move forward with a solid bill that includes many Farm Bureau-supported provisions. We are particularly pleased with provisions to provide risk management to fruit and vegetable farmers and to support livestock farmers during disasters. We now urge House members to bring it on home by voting in support of the bill. Stallman added, “It is imperative that all of agriculture unify behind this farm bill, for the good of the whole of American agriculture, consumers, our hard-working farm and ranch families and the rural communities they support.”

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson also urged lawmakers to quickly pass the legislation in a letter outlining NFU priorities in the final language.

“NFU is pleased with the conference report for a variety of reasons,” said Johnson. “The bill includes fixed reference prices to provide assistance to farmers only when truly necessary. It provides a strong crop insurance title and approximately $4 billion in livestock disaster assistance. The bill increases funding for the Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program and related initiatives. We are also encouraged by the inclusion of robust mandatory funding levels for renewable energy programs. We’re also very happy that the bill preserves the ability of American family farmers and ranchers to distinguish their products in the marketplace through the existing Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) law.”

“On behalf of all family farmers, ranchers, fishermen, rural residents and consumers, I call on Congress to pass the bill this week,” continued Johnson. “It is time to move forward and pass the farm bill.”

National Association of Wheat Growers President Bing Von Bergen, a Montana farmer, said NAWG supports the conference committee bill "that strengthens crop insurance and allows growers the necessary safety net to keep a secure, affordable and healthy food supply. In addition, this bill provides funding for important programs in conservation, research and trade that help keep America’s wheat industry productive and competitive on a global scale."

The National Cotton Council announced its support for the bill, praising lawmakers for providing cotton producers with transition Direct Payments for the next two years. While some criticized commodity payments and income restrictions as too loose, NCC Chairman Jimmy Dodson expressed concern about adjusted gross income language and the possibility that the Secretary of Agriculture could tighten rules on being actively engaged. In a news release, Dodson added, “in spite of our serious concerns about the new eligibility rules and limitations, we strongly support the cotton provisions, recommend prompt approval of the conference report and commend the work of the conference leaders and committee members. A viable production agriculture sector is critical to our national security and our economy. This legislation is essential to the stability of production agriculture.”

American Association of Crop Insurers, Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau and National Crop Insurance Services, in response to the Farm Bill conference committee filing its conference report last night, released the following statement:

“We are pleased that Senate and House conferees have reached a bipartisan compromise and produced a legislative package that gives modern-day agriculture the tools it needs for success in today's world. There is a strong consensus among lawmakers that crop insurance should be enhanced and serve as the centerpiece of the farm safety net moving forward, which underscores the success the policy has seen over the years and the popularity it enjoys among farmers.

"Since crop insurance's rise to prominence, overall farm policy spending has gone down because farmers and private insurers help shoulder risk that was otherwise borne by taxpayers. In addition, rural economies have benefited because crop insurance makes sure farmers quickly and accurately receive the help then they need it the most.

Full language of the bill can be found at http://docs.house.gov/…

The Statement of the Managers provides some explanation about how negotiators changed the House and Senate versions of the bill. http://docs.house.gov/…

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Posted at 2:07PM CST 01/28/14 by Chris Clayton
Comments (1)
I thought I read it was the "Agriculture Act of 2014", but yet, the derogatory mislabeling continues.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 7:25PM CST 01/29/14
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