Following on the heels of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s action on Tuesday, the House Agriculture Committee passed the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) of 2013 by a vote of 36 to 10 Wednesday after more than ten hours of farm bill markup considering 100 amendments.
“This provides a great reason for optimism we will have a new long-term farm bill this year,” said American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman in a statement late last night after the House Ag Committee finally finished its work. “That belief is further supported by the fact that the bills are more striking in their similarities than in their differences.”
One of the differences in the two bills is a provision linking conservation compliance to crop insurance premium subsidies, included in the Senate bill but not in the House. Conservation changes in the House bill include the consolidation of 23 conservation programs into 13 and streamlining program delivery to producers, saving more than $6 billion.
The Senate bill is expected to go to the floor next week while the House bill is slated for next month.
An optimistic Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman met with farm broadcasters on Wednesday morning, the day after her committee passed a new farm bill called the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013. “This is the biggest jobs bill we will pass in any Congress,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). “It’s time to get it done.”
Stabenow says the majority of the bill they passed out of committee is virtually the same as last year and she believes they addressed the concerns of southern producers. “I think we have a strong coalition and have really produced what I think my friends down the hall should just take as the commodity title,” she said.
The senator talked about the amount of savings in the bill, concerns about the nutrition title, what they did with cotton in the bill, and conservation compliance. Overall, Senator Stabenow is optimistic about getting a farm bill soon, and that combined with new immigration policy, will be a “positive one-two punch for producers.”
Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow
House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) met with the farm broadcasters just shortly before his committee began markup of their bill and said he was “as wound up as an 8 day clock” and expected it to be a long day but maybe not quite as long as last year’s 15 hour session. “But I would note that we had approximately 100 amendments a year ago, as of this morning we have approximately 100 amendments this time,” he said.
Lucas says the bill will go to the House floor this year “a dramatic improvement over a year ago” but he does expect it to be “a struggle we’re prepared to engage in and we’re prepared to move forward on.”
Chairman Lucas said it’s important to look long term in the farm bill. “Farm bills are not necessarily about this year or next year or year three,” he said. “Farm bills are about making provisions for year four or year five, when the wheels come off.”
House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas
2013 NAFB Washington Watch Photo Album
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack supports provisions in the farm bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee that ties conservation compliance to crop insurance.
“It’s a deal that’s made between taxpayers, farmers and insurance companies,” said Vilsack. “In many cases, we’re paying as taxpayers 50-55-60-63% of the premium. In the past, we also provided a direct payment and as part of the direct payment deal we said in exchange for this check, we’re going to expect something in return and that is conservation compliance.”
Since it is obvious direct payments are going to be eliminated, Vilsack says it makes sense to tie crop insurance premium subsides to conservation compliance. “If you’re going to get the benefit of a premium subsidy that’s pretty significant, we’d ask you to put together a plan and be compliant with that plan.”
Vilsack spoke to members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting Tuesday and hit on a variety of issues related to the farm bill.
Listen to Vilsack’s comments here: Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack Mtg. with NAFB
2013 NAFB Washington Watch Photo Album
The Senate Agriculture Committee voted 15-5 today to approve their version of a 2013 farm bill.
“The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act includes an even stronger commitment to conservation, one borne out of the efforts by environmental and agricultural groups who sat down together to find a way to protect our soil and water resources necessary to keep agriculture strong in America for generations to come,” said Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich).
The bill includes an agreement between agriculture and conservation organizations to ensure that basic soil and wetland protection requirements were extended to apply to crop insurance premium subsidies. “We’ve come up with what we think is a very workable alternative which would not limit eligibility and which would have crop insurance tied to making sure you weren’t breaking up highly erodible land or plowing up wetlands. But if you did have an accident and something happened, maybe you drained a ditch a little bit deeper than you should have, you would have two years to mitigate that problem,” said Mary Kay Thatcher with the American Farm Bureau Federation of the framework agreed to last week by 32 groups.
Several conservation-related amendments were approved for the bill in committee, including one by Senator Thune (R-SD) to ensure tracking of conversion of native prairies to crop production and another by Sen. Heitkamp (D-NV) to allow the Natural Resources Conservation Service to have more say over how to allocate technical assistance programs among programs.
The bill is expected to move to the Senate floor next week.
As both the House and Senate Agriculture committees are marking up their versions of a farm bill this week, that was the number one issue for farm broadcasters meeting in the nation’s capitol for their annual Washington Watch.
Mary Kay Thatcher with the American Farm Bureau Federation sees few major differences between the two committee drafts released last week. “If you look at all the titles, except commodities and nutrition, they’re fairly similar – there isn’t really a nickel’s worth of difference in conservation, research, rural development or specialty crops,” she said. Even the commodity titles she thinks are more similar this year than last, but there are differences in nutrition. “I still think the food stamp program is going to be the big ticket that’s going to hold us up in getting this thing done.”
Listen to Chuck’s interview with Mary Kay here: Interview with Mary Kay Thatcher, AFBF
Jon Doggett with the National Corn Growers Association says their top priority with the farm bill is risk management and crop insurance, which is why they joined with a number of other agriculture and environmental groups last week in hammering out a compromise to support tying conservation compliance and crop insurance but oppose means testing or payment limitations. “We worked out some common sense language that makes this a very workable program for growers that offers them plenty of opportunity that if they inadvertently get out of compliance they can quickly get back in,” he said. “In return, we have an assurance from the conservation community that they will be with us to protect the funding for crop insurance.”
Listen to Chuck’s interview with Jon here: Interview with Jon Doggett, NCGA
The Senate farm bill mark up is scheduled for Tuesday and the House on Wednesday.
Link to Senate farm bill page.
Link to House farm bill draft.
2013 NAFB Washington Watch Photo Album
Find more NAFB Washington Watch interviews on AgNewsWire.com
We survived a devastating drought and even the end of the world in 2012, only to be thrown off the fiscal cliff at the start of 2013 while lawmakers stalled on a short term fix that would also include an extension of the current farm bill for nine months. Starting the new year off with this kind of uncertainty makes it hard to make predictions, but USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber gave it a try.
“Everyone’s anticipating a large amount of corn to be planted this year. No reason why we wouldn’t see similar levels to last year, if not a little higher,” said Glauber, who adds that he still expects to see lots of soybeans planted as well. Assuming “more return to normal yields” and similar plantings to 2012, “certainly would allow us to rebuild stocks in a hurry,” he said.
Of course, that is assuming more normal weather – which is exactly what everyone was expecting this time last year. Still Glauber is optimistic about farm income for 2013, even though he expects moderation in crop prices which should help livestock producers. “We’re still expecting strong prices for beef, pork, poultry and dairy and moderating feed prices should help a lot,” said Glauber.
Again – that is going on the assumption that the weather in 2013 has to be better than what it was in 2012. Normal would be good.
National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) President Gene Schmidt made the following statement regarding Congress’ passage of a short-term Farm Bill extension rather than a five-year comprehensive bill.
“It is extremely unfortunate that farmers and landowners will be left without the certainty of a five-year policy and the assistance of critical programs to protect America’s land, air and water and to ensure proactive planning for a sustainable food, fiber and fuel supply for the future.
“In total, the fiscal cliff bill does not address deficit reduction, whereas the 2012 Farm Bill as passed by the full Senate and the House Agriculture Committee would have saved taxpayers $23 billion and $33 billion respectively, while maintaining needed funding for important conservation programs. This bill does not raise the debt ceiling, so in two months Congress will be fighting the same budget fights that led to this deal, including the expiration of the Continuing Resolution funding the government through March 27, 2013.
“When Chairwoman Stabenow and Chairman Lucas saw the writing on the wall during the ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations, they worked together to form a 78-page thoughtful farm bill extension, tailored to the needs of the landscape. However, their work was disregarded in this deal, just as the 2012 Farm Bill was never given the opportunity to come to the House floor. In a time of tremendous drought in the West and hurricane damage in the East, the $850 million in disaster aid included in the extension plan agreed to by Senate and House Agriculture Committee Leadership was not included in this deal.
“The shortsighted extension leaves farmers and landowners without the certainty they need to plan for your future food needs as well as the resource needs of the landscape. Now that Congress has dealt with the “fiscal cliff,” we are urging House and Senate Leaders to make the passage of a long-term Farm Bill a top priority.”
According to the Agri-Pulse Farm and Rural Poll released today, 78 percent of farmers polled are voting for Mitt Romney in the presidential election and a majority blame Democrats for failure to pass a new farm bill.
“We wanted to see not only how farmers viewed the presidential election, but how the failure to pass a new farm bill might impact their votes on a wide variety of races,” explained Agri-Pulse Editor Sara Wyant. “We also wanted to see how those men and women view some of the most challenging issues confronting their operations.”
On November 1, 2012, Pulse Opinion Research conducted a telephone survey of 319 farmers and ranchers who are likely voters. Questions covered the presidential election, farm bill priorities, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s job performance rating, the Renewable Fuels Standard, and other topics. The telephone survey found that 71 percent of respondents strongly disapprove of President Obama’s job performance while 12 percent strongly approve. Of all farmers polled, 51 percent labeled themselves Republican, 26 percent Democrat.
A majority (58 percent) of respondents believe the next president will cut farm program spending, regardless of who is elected. However, if more money is available to spend on farm programs, the most popular way to spend the money is improving crop insurance, as chosen by 37 percent of farmers polled. Notably, 49 percent of farmers indicated they grow only crops, 48 percent indicated they grow crops as well as raise livestock and 3 percent raise only livestock.
Those polled say they believe that environmental regulations and tax burdens are the biggest threats facing the future of their farming operations, 33 percent and 29 percent, respectively.
See all the questions and poll results here.
The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) is one of 15 agricultural organizations issuing joint statement today on the expiration of the 2008 farm bill:
The 2008 law governing many of our nation’s farm policies expired on Sunday, September 30th, and the 2012 Farm Bill needed to replace it is bottled up in Congress. While the Senate and the House Agriculture Committees were both able to pass their versions of the new farm bill, the full House was unable to do so. While expiration of farm bill program authorities has little or no effect on some important programs, it has terminated a number of important programs and will very adversely affect many farmers and ranchers, as well as ongoing market development and conservation efforts.
Congress will return in mid-November for a lame-duck session prior to final adjournment in December. We will work to have the first order of business for the House of Representatives be to consider a new Farm Bill. We are urging our members to seek out their House members between now and the elections and remind them of the consequences of not having a new bill in place prior to adjournment at the end of the year.
Among the programs affected by expiration of the legislation are several USDA conservation programs. About 6.5 million acres rotate out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) this year and while current contracts are protected, no new signup will be allowed for CRP or the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). Both of these programs are voluntary land retirement programs that helps agricultural producers protect environmentally sensitive land, decrease erosion, restore wildlife habitat, and safeguard ground and surface water. In addition, there cannot be sign up for the Wetlands Reserve Program or the Grasslands Reserve Program without new legislation.
In addition to the NACD, other organizations issuing the joint statement include American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and the National Farmers Union.
Congress went home to hit the campaign trail last week without taking any action on a new farm bill and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says that means some programs will expire at the end of this month.
“I’m concerned about the fact that some of the smaller conservation programs will not be authorized, nor will there be any money appropriated for them, which will limit our capacity to do good work in conservation,” said Vilsack. “We know there’s continued interest in CRP, but we will be unable to provide any new sign ups for CRP.” USDA’s Farm Service Agency notified state and county offices last week that they will will not be able process any new enrollments for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts after September 30.
Secretary Vilsack is frustrated and disappointed that House leadership failed to allow a vote on the bill passed by the agriculture committee, and he thinks they have ulterior motives. “I don’t think it’s simply issues involving nutrition assistance,” he said. “I think the House leadership also has plans to significantly cut and reduce support for farm programs – conservation programs, commodity title, as well as the crop insurance title.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters last week before Congress called it quits that they would deal with a farm bill after the election because he did not believe there were 218 votes to pass either an extension or new legislation. “The current situation that we face is that we’ve got people who believe there’s not enough reform in the farm bill that came out of committee, and others who believe there’s too much reform in the bill that came out of committee,” Boehner said. “But when we get back, we will deal with the issue of the farm bill.”
Congress is back in session for a couple of days this week, but all indications are that no action will be taken on a farm bill at this point before the current bill expires.
Knowing how fluid the situation in Washington can be, that’s no reason to give up hope yet and National Corn Growers Association president Garry Niemeyer says they are urging farmers to call Congress from their combines to make their voices heard. “This being Farm Safety Week, pull your combine over and shut it down, but call your congressman,” Garry said. “Tell them exactly what you think. That’s what we need.”
Garry says they are completely frustrated by the lack of action on a farm bill in the House. “This is just ridiculous,” he said. “We have big problems out here and (members of) Congress have really not done their job.”
Go to FarmBillNow.com for more information about contacting your congressional representative.
Listen to Garry’s comments here: NCGA president Garry Niemeyer
American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) president Bob Stallman and National Farmers Union (NFU) president Roger Johnson will be masters of ceremony for the Farm Bill Now rally on September 12 by the Capitol Reflecting Pool The rally is an effort to build public awareness of the need for Congress to pass a new, comprehensive, five-year farm bill before current one expires at the end of this month. Lawmakers scheduled to speak at the event include Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, Kansas Senator Jerry Moran, House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson and South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem.
Among the organizations taking part in the rally is the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), because president Dennis Slater says 250,000 jobs in the equipment manufacturing industry are at risk if Congress fails to pass new legislation this month.
“The agricultural equipment industry has assisted the farm agriculture community providing the safest, most abundant, most affordable food supply in the world. This has allowed farmers and ranchers to continue to invest in modern equipment that they need to stay competitive and stay successful throughout the world,” said Slater who explains that without that safety net in the Farm Bill, the uncertainty and lack of protection could force farmers to make many difficult decisions.
“One of those decisions would be to not invest in the latest technology in new equipment, which means they would not be as competitive moving forward. This not only hurts the farmers, it hurts our economy, it hurts the production lines of our manufacturers, which leads to a cost of manufacturing jobs. The ripple effect could really put a damper on our economy, and no one wants that right now during these uncertain times,” added Slater.
Listen to an interview with Dennis here: Dennis Slater interview
A coalition of about a dozen agriculture groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Farmers Union, and the National Milk Producers Federation has urged Senate leaders to “refrain from supporting” any legislation resembling the House-passed disaster bill should it come up in the Senate. This news release from the AFBF says the letter sent to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) states that “such a measure would detract from the larger mission of passing a long-term farm bill.”
“This is something our groups do not support,” the letter stated. “We strongly urge you to refrain from this as we fear that passage of a bill similar to the House bill could result in further delays in completing a full five-year farm bill.”
According to the group, in comparison to a disaster bill, completing a five-year farm bill would deliver assistance to eligible livestock producers nearly as quickly and would put into place certainty for future years, and it is paid for in both the House and Senate versions. This highlights the House disaster bill’s $600 million price tag, which clearly would impact funding available for long-term agriculture needs.
The current farm bill expires at the end of this month, and the group makes the case that the Senate and House versions of the new farm bill have the provisions for disaster relief with long-term benefits.
As the Farm Progress Show kicked off in Boone, Iowa, representatives from several of the more than 45 organizations that make up the Farm Bill Now coalition spoke out to urge Congress to finish work on new agricultural policy legislation as soon as possible.
Among the diverse representation in the coalition is the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. “We represent 850 equipment manufacturing companies, with 450 of them involved in the agricultural industry,” said AEM president Dennis Slater. “Our farmers, our manufacturers, our American workers and families, simply cannot afford to have Congress keep delaying this.”
Other speakers for the coalition at the FPS included National Corn Growers Association First Vice President Pam Johnson, 25×25 Alliance board member Ron Heck, American Soybean Association president Steve Wellman, Iowa Farm Bureau president Craig Hill and Iowa Farmers Union president Chris Peterson.
Listen to or download comments from all here: Farm Bill Now at FPS
2012 Farm Progress Show Photo Album
A coalition of 39 farm groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Corn Growers Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, is calling on Congress to pass a new farm bill before the old one expires at the end of September. The group, Farm Bill Now, has an interactive web portal at www.FarmBillNow.com, that lets you connect with your members of Congress and show your support for a new five-year farm bill. The coalition points out that this isn’t just for farmers; consumers need to get involved in the effort as well since any farm bill is really a jobs, food, conservation, research, energy and trade bill… something for every American!
Members of Farm Bill Now plan to meet at Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa this coming Tuesday, August 28th to discuss the effort. In addition, representatives of many of the groups in the coalition will gather on September 12th, 2012 at the U.S. Capitol to encourage Congress to pass the bill before programs expire at the end of that month.