Ag groups react to Senate farm bill markup

As the Senate Agriculture Committee completed the markup the 2018 farm bill June 13, interest groups offered their opinions. Most were in praise of the actions of Chairman Pat Roberts, R-KS, and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-MI. Here’s a sampling.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, “Farmers and ranchers welcome (the) markup and passage of the farm bill by the Senate Agriculture Committee. Low commodity prices, rising interest rates and an uncertain future for exports hang heavy over America’s farm and ranch land. But (this) vote means light on the horizon. We know that Congress is determined to see us continue to provide food security, fuel and fiber for all Americans.

“We applaud the spirit of cooperation shown in (the) 20-1 vote, and are eager to see that carry through on the floor of the Senate in the coming days. The American Farm Bureau Federation thanks Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow for bringing this important legislation forward. Farmers and ranchers are counting on our lawmakers to come together and pass the farm bill soon, followed quickly by the president’s signature.”

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said the farm bill markup "embodied the bipartisan, cooperative spirit that federal agriculture policymaking has traditionally enjoyed. We commend Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow for their hard work and leadership to advance a farm bill this year.

“We’re encouraged by a number of amendments that were approved today that will strengthen the bill. Refunding dairy Margin Protection Program premium payments made between 2015-2017, restoring funding for bio-based programs, and removing separate payment limits for organic producers in EQIP, will all help struggling producers.

“Family farmers and ranchers need the certainty and support of a strong farm bill this year, especially given the dramatic drop in net farm income in the years since the 2014 farm bill was passed and signed into law, and given the ongoing trade disruptions. Farmers Union encourages the Senate to continue the bipartisan work witnessed today and pass a farm bill that shores up the safety nets for farmers and consumers, promotes farm and ranch sustainability, and ensures fair and diverse markets for family farmers. We look forward to additional improvements as the bill progresses through the Senate.”

Cattlemen’s view

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Executive Director of Government Affairs Allison Rivera said the successful markup “brings us closer to providing producers with the certainty they need to focus on their operations and feed the world. While areas of improvement remain, the Senate bill does include some important provisions that address the priorities of America’s cattlemen and women.

“We look forward to working with Congress during the next stages of the legislative process, and ultimately passing a new farm bill before the Sept. 30, 2018, deadline.” 

Grain producers

National Corn Growers Association Kevin Skunes said the committee action “marks another step forward in getting a new farm bill passed and signed into law before the current bill expires, providing some certainty to farmers facing declining commodity prices and the uncertainty caused by trade tariffs and ethanol market disruptions. NCGA commends Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow for working together to write a bipartisan bill.

"NCGA is pleased to see the bipartisan bill maintains support for a robust crop insurance program, our organization’s top farm bill priority. At the same time, it is very disappointing that provisions attempting to secure a more regionally equitable commodity title and improve the ARC-county program to ensure producers have a viable, market-oriented risk management option were not included in the final bill. We hope there will be opportunities to improve these areas as the bill moves forward.”

National Association of Wheat Growers President Jimmie Musick said, “NAWG commends the Senate Agriculture Committee for working together to move the farm bill forward and out of committee. It’s vital for the bill to be reauthorized before the Sept. 30 deadline, so that farmers can have access to these beneficial programs.

“NAWG is pleased that the Committee accepted language to allow trade promotion dollars from Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development to be used in Cuba. Cuba is a growing market for U.S. wheat growers and these programs help strengthen this partnership.

“NAWG also supports the Senate Ag passing language to strengthen the USDA’s Farm Service Agency’s loan programs. FSA loan programs help growers access financing at a time when they are experiencing extreme low prices and high input costs. The committee also accepted several amendments addressing wetlands compliance, which provide more flexibility for growers.

“As the bill moves to the Senate floor, NAWG will continue to make maintaining a strong crop insurance program a top priority. Wheat growers want a well-rounded farm bill with a strong safety net program that allows for producer choice between revenue-based (Agriculture Risk Coverage) and price-based (Price Loss Coverage) coverage.

“Additionally, NAWG supports provisions that provide financial incentives for farmers to adopt conservation practices into their operations. We also appreciate the committee’s commitment to a strong research title and support the bill’s reauthorization of the Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative and other important research programs which will help wheat growers continue to produce the highest quality crop.”

American Soybean Association Vice President Davie Stephens said, “Soy growers and farmers across the country are in need of certainty during this time of low crop prices and volatile conditions affecting export markets. The Senate Committee’s action takes us one step closer to completing the farm bill this year, providing much needed stability across the countryside.”

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With the Senate farm bill now through committee on a 20-1 vote, ASA looks forward to working with the full Senate on this bipartisan effort to bring certainty and stability to growers before the current farm bill expires at the end of September.

Other vested groups

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said, “This bill includes much-needed funding increases and critical policy improvements on key sustainable agriculture priorities, including: local and regional food systems, rural business development, conservation, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, crop insurance, and research.

“We thank Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, and John Thune, R-SD, for successfully championing an amendment to authorize the expansion of an existing grassland protection provision, known as Sodsaver, to the entire country. Sodaver limits grassland loss by reducing crop insurance premium subsidies on land that is broken out from native prairie.

“We are deeply disappointed that an amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA, to restore accountability and fairness that would have placed a hard cap on the total amount of commodity program payments and benefits any one farm can receive annually, and would have strengthened ‘actively engaged’ rules to ensure that large operations cannot endlessly multiply payments by adding non-farm investors. This was an outrageous turn of events and a missed opportunity to close egregious loopholes once and for all.”

Independent Community Bankers of America President and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey said the vote, “should send a strong message to the full Senate to quickly adopt this bipartisan farm bill, which is so important to America’s farmers, ranchers, lenders and other rural citizens.

“The bipartisan vote keeps the process of enacting a new farm bill this year moving forward. Although there are still many challenges to enacting final legislation, ICBA will work with Congress on enacting a new farm bill in a timely manner. Farmers, ranchers and their lenders need the certainty, predictability and income protections that a five-year farm bill will provide as they struggle through the current era of very low commodity prices, with net farm income down by more than 50 percent since 2013.

“ICBA welcomes the bill’s provisions to maintain commodity price protections and a strong crop insurance program. ICBA also supports the bill’s increase for guaranteed farm loan limits to $1.75 million, up from the current $1.39 million level, in addition to other important programs.”

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or [email protected].