Updated: 7:51 a.m. June 13
The Senate Agriculture Committee meets today to markup the 2018 Farm Bill. Here’s what farm groups are saying about the bill as they prepare for the hearing.
“Congress is at a critical juncture when it comes to the future of the farm safety net,” said National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Policy Director Greg Fogel. “In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress must decide if the role of the farm safety net is to protect working farmers from sharp yield and price swings, or if it to subsidize commodity production without limit or concern about farm consolidation or limiting opportunities for beginning farmers. We urge the Senate Agriculture Committee to do the right thing for American agriculture, and to support Sen. Grassley’s proposed amendment to reduce commodity subsidy payment limits, target payments to legitimate farmers, and eliminate loopholes that lead to abuse of the system. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is pleased to join with other leading farmer advocacy organizations – the Center for Rural Affairs, National Family Farm Coalition, National Farmers Union, National Grange, National Young Farmers Coalition, and Rural Coalition – in a letter of support for Senator Grassley’s amendment.”
“Farmers Union appreciates the hard work that Chairman Roberts, Ranking Member Stabenow, members of the committee and their staff put into creating this farm bill,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “This bill has many encouraging provisions that promote good stewardship, farm sustainability, and diverse markets in agriculture. As the bill progresses, we’ll work to ensure family farmers have the support they need to weather these turbulent times in agriculture.”
Johnson highlighted aspects of the legislation that promote the long-term sustainability of family farms and ranches. The current version of the bill preserves total funding for the conservation title and the Rural Energy for America Program, which are critical to many farm operations.
“Sustainability is critical for family farm productivity and the health of rural communities now and for generations to come,” said Johnson. “While we’re disappointed in funding cuts to EQIP and CSP, we’re encouraged by reforms that will make it easier for farmers to access these critical programs while also maximizing their environmental benefits.”
Johnson applauded the committee’s work to support diverse markets for family farmers. The bill provides mandatory funding for local and value-added programs, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer programs, organic programs, and trade promotion programs that had previously been subject to farm bill expiration.
“The increased investments in these programs and the certainty that comes with them will help farmers and ranchers access new markets that help them diversify their operations, improve their profitability and meet consumer demands,” he said.
Johnson said NFU also appreciates several other provisions that help support farmers through the current economic and socioeconomic difficulties, including authorization of the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, support for community-based responses to the opioid epidemic, and an additional $100 million investment in the dairy safety net.
The National Association of Conservation Districts says this bill provides investments into conservation by maintaining overall Conservation Title funding levels. Additionally, the bill increases the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) while not taking funds from other conservation programs and allows increased grazing on CRP acreage. However, the Senate bill includes language that shifts funding from working lands programs to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), while at the same time authorizing a grant program that would erode the current conservation system with its appropriate checks and balances.
“Maintaining overall Conservation Title funding is a priority for NACD, and we’re pleased this draft includes strong funding levels to enable conservation delivery at the local level," said NACD President Brent Van Dyke. "NACD will continue to work with the committee to ensure this bill encompasses the strongest support possible for working lands conservation programs and improves the locally-led delivery of programs like RCPP.”
“America’s farmers and ranchers are facing an economic storm across the countryside, so the release . . . of the Senate Farm Bill is a crucial step to move the very important farm bill process forward,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. “Farm income is at a decade low. Farm debt is on the rise and international markets for our farm goods are in jeopardy. The Senate Agriculture Committee, led by Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, have worked hard to address those economic challenges and assemble a bipartisan bill that provides the clarity, policy certainty and vital risk protection tools that our farmers need now more than ever. We look forward to next week’s markup of the bill and to working with the Senate to move this farm bill forward. It is important that the Senate bill strike a balance that will help set the overall congressional tone for getting the farm bill done this year.”
“The farm bill is vital legislation, not just for American farmers but for consumers in our country and abroad who depend on us to provide food, fiber and fuel,” said ASA Vice President and Kentucky soybean grower Davie Stephens. “Farmers need the certainty of a new five-year bill to manage continuing low crop prices and farm income as well as volatile conditions affecting our vital export markets. We urge the Senate Committee to act on this legislation as soon as possible and for the full Senate to consider it before the July Congressional recess.”
Authorizations under the current Agriculture Act of 2014 will expire at the end of September 2018.
Source: AFBF, ASA, NFU, NACD, NSAC