“The focus has been to try and come up with farm policy for cotton in the new farm bill that will resolve the case,” said NCC vice president for Economics & Farm Policy Gary Adams. “We believe that STAX, which would be a new area-wide revenue insurance option for cotton, is a way to resolve the case.”
Gary says the provisions for Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) are “very similar” in both bills, while the House also includes transition payments to assist growers and their lenders until STAX can be fully implemented, “so that’s a difference that has to be worked out.”
Gary says they were some features of STAX that Brazil objected to that have now been removed, such as what was referred to as a reference price, “so we think that without having that reference price in there … we think this puts together a package that should satisfy the case.”
Bottom line, Gary says producers need a farm bill this year. “The one thing we hope is we can see Congress complete its action this summer so we can get a multi-year farm bill in place and give producers some certainty about what policy is going to be for the next few years,” he concluded.
The Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) by a wide margin on Wednesday paving the way for upgrades to the inland waterways system important for farmers.
The National Corn Growers Association Chairman Garry Niemeyer says those inland waterways, in particular the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, are an important route for moving our corn to markets worldwide. “It’s been a long time, since 2007, since we’ve had a WRDA bill and back before 2000 they used to have a WRDA bill every other year,” Garry said in an interview today. “Now we just need the funding to get these project moving forward.”
Of specific interest to corn farmers, the bill contains provisions to remove the over-budget and long-delayed Olmsted lock and dam project from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), the remainder of the cost to be paid 100 percent by general treasury revenue and not cost-shared 50-50 through the IWTF. This action will free up around $750 million to the IWTF to complete critical priority navigation projects. An increase in the threshold for major rehabilitation, from the current $14 million to $20 million, was approved.
The bill now goes to the House for approval and Garry says they are encouraging farmers to call their representatives in Congress to tell them how important this legislation is to them.
The Senate WRDA bill also contains an amendment, co-sponsored by Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, regarding on-farm fuel storage under the EPA Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures regulation. “That means there will be some relief for those farmers who have on-farm fuel storage, which is most of them,” Sen. Pryor told farm broadcasters meeting in Washington this week. “We think this is the right way to do it, we think it’s commonsense, think it’s a big win.”
Last year the rallying cry of agricultural organizations for a “Farm Bill Now” fell on deaf ears in Congress, but this week’s actions by both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to pass a bill is leading to new hope that it might finally happen.
With about 100 amendments considered or withdrawn in the House Ag Committee markup on Wednesday, there was something for everyone to be pleased or disappointed with. National Corn Growers Association president Pam Johnson says they are pleased the process is moving forward but remain “extremely concerned with the Committee’s decision to adopt a fixed-target-price program that moves U.S. farm policy away from the market-oriented reforms that have made possible a robust rural economy. It is also disappointing the Committee failed to use this opportunity to ensure a Revenue Loss Coverage program that is a genuine risk management option for producers.” The American Soybean Association expressed similar concerns.
The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) was pleased that the House version rejected an amendment to the Dairy Support Act. “The committee’s decision to once again reject an amendment by Reps. Bob Goodlatte and David Scott that would have undermined the House Farm Bill’s dairy safety net is gratifying to the thousands of dairy farmers across the country who support the DSA,” said NMPF president and CEO Jerry Kozak.
For the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), portions of the House farm bill included priorities important to cattlemen and women such as permanent disaster programs along with the elimination of the livestock title, maintaining of conservation programs and a strong research title.
An amendment supported by the National Pork Producers Council was adopted in the House bill to prevent the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) from doing any further work on the rulemaking that resulted from the 2008 Farm Bill, and the National Fisheries Institute is happy about an amendment repealing the duplicative USDA catfish inspection program.
The Senate bill is expected to go to the floor next week while the House bill is slated for next month.
The House Agriculture Committee passed the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 by a vote of 36 to 10, officially putting on their hats and adjourning at a quarter before midnight in the Eastern time Wednesday after more than ten hours of farm bill markup considering 100 amendments.
“This is an adventure that started several years ago,” said Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) at the end. “It’s taken two markups to get to this point. We have an adventure ahead of us in June.”
Speaking to farm broadcasters before the process began Wednesday morning, Lucas expected it to be a long day but not as long as last year’s markup and they did manage to cut that down by a few hours. But he knows this is just the beginning of a much longer process to get a bill passed on the floor. “Whatever we do in the committee, many of the battles – whether it is over dairy, or sugar, or the size of the nutrition reforms, will be fought out again on the floor of the United States House,” he said.
Among the battles fought in the committee was on the dairy program, but members ultimately voted to support the Dairy Security Act (DSA)and reject an amendment by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and David Scott (D-GA) that would have removed the supply management mechanism of the act.
“Supply management is antithetical to the future growth of the dairy industry,” Goodlatte and Scott said in a statement expressing their disappointment in the vote. “A supply control program that will directly intervene in markets and increase milk prices will ultimately hurt dairy producers and consumers as well as dairy food manufacturers by stifling industry growth.”
A $20.5 billion cut to nutrition programs survived the committee markup after hours of debate and many of the ten members who voted against the final bill did so because of those cuts. The nutrition title makes up 80% of the “farm bill” spending. Cuts to the other 20% the bill amount to about $18 billion. “This is the first real reform to the nutrition title in almost 20 years,” said Lucas.
“This bill reflects agriculture’s cuts from the sequester and goes beyond that in spending reductions by making tough decisions and setting priorities that make sense for farmers, families, and taxpayers,” said Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich).
“It’s going to save off the baseline $24 billion over the life of the bill,” said Ranking Member Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) “We’ve made some reductions. We’ve streamlined and consolidated programs. There is also significantly less mandatory money authorized for energy programs than in the 2008 Farm Bill.”
Among the five senators who voted against the bill was Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) “I still want to pass a Farm Bill and provide long-term certainty to farmers, ranchers, and their families in Kansas and across the country,” said Roberts. “However, as it stands at this point today, this is not a reform bill. This is a rearview mirror bill.”
The bill is expected to move to the Senate floor next week.
The Senate Agriculture Committee meets this morning to consider the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, their version of a “Farm Bill.” Yesterday, farm broadcasters meeting in Washington D.C. had the chance to interview a number of representatives from various agricultural and renewable fuels organizations and most of them had something to say about what the House and Senate have in their respective draft bills.
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.”
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.”
For episode #25 of the AgFanatics podcast, Doug Yoder, Senior Director of Affiliate & Risk Management at the Illinois Farm Bureau, shares his insight into where the current farm bill stands and what he sees happening moving forward. Listen closely to the numbers Doug provides regarding crop insurance premiums and payouts. Also, Doug shares a little bit about what he enjoys doing in his spare time.
The AgriVisor AgFanatics podcast is updated twice weekly and can be found on Itunes or right from the front page at www.agrivisor.com.
“We’ve tried to look at providing farmers a three-legged safety net stool where every farmer would have crop insurance and marketing loans available to them,” said Congressional Relations Director Mary Kay Thatcher. The third leg would let farmers choose between a modified STAX (stacked income protection) provision, or a target price program.
Thatcher says the plan approved by the FB board over the weekend saves 23-billion over the current bill – the same as the Senate bill last year.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is hard at work advocating for beef producers year-round, but during the Cattle Industry Convention they get to hear with cattlemen and women from across the country.
During this year’s event I talked with Colin Woodall, Vice President of Government Affairs for NCBA. To start off our chat I asked him about some of the 2012 successes they are proud to share.
“There are a couple of great successes. One of the top successes was the fact we were able to get the exemption amounts for the death tax put into permanent law. That was a huge victory for the cattle industry because for several years every two years we would have to defend our position. To be able to have our $5 million exemption per person and our $10 million per couple in permanent law is just great for the entire industry. We were also able to shut down the EPA efforts to regulate ag dust. Another great win. So those are two of the really big ones that we had and then just last week we were victorious in getting more beef access into Japan.”
Coming down the pipeline for 2013, Colin shared that they are still working on the Farm Bill, but it is slow moving. They are also battling activist groups trying to remove the use of antibiotics, dealing with immigration and border control, as well as the continue fight with the EPA.
During the second general session at the 2013 Cattle Industry Convention, NCBA President-Elect, Scott George, made a huge product announcement for Apple. Keeping up with the pirate themed event, Scott introduced the iPatch and the trend is quickly catching on.
The passing of the gavel takes place tomorrow as current NCBA President J.D. Alexander hands over the reins to Scott George, a Wyoming beef cow/calf producer and dairy farmer. I met up with Scott this morning as he shared what he hopes to accomplish in the upcoming year.
“There are a variety of things that are very important for our membership. One of the biggest is the Farm Bill. We really need to get it passed through Congress so the farmers have some certainty and they can make their planting, planning, harvesting and marketing decions. And there is just a lot of uncertainty when we don’t have that.”
A diverse coalition of agricultural organizations that came together during the 2008 Farm Bill debate under the name Farm Policy Facts announced that they are stepping up education activities during the 113th Congress.
Farm Policy Facts will communicate with the media and members of Congress via regular email alerts that will include a mix of farm policy news, detailed analysis and case studies of farm policy in action. Former journalists and legislative experts – including Rene Pastor, a longtime commodities reporter with Reuters, and Tom Sell, a former Hill aide and USDA official and cofounder and managing partner of Combest, Sell & Associates, LLC. – will be regular contributors.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will host a live Virtual Office Hours session next week on Twitter to answer questions on the important role of rural America to the national and global economy, increasing agricultural opportunities in U.S. communities, and the importance of passing a five-year Farm Bill.
• What are the emerging sectors in agriculture for new farmers and ranchers; where do I find them?
• In both rural and urban communities, what is the significance of the agricultural sector?
• I didn’t grow up on a farm. Are there other opportunities in agriculture besides farming that I should know about?
You can submit questions in advance to the @USDA Twitter account using the hashtag #AskUSDA.
Vilsack’s twitter chat will be on Monday, December 17, starting at 3:30 p.m. EDT
“It’s been a tough year because of the cost of production. The drought drove corn prices to records and soybean meal prices to records. Producers have suffered through that, but many had some coverage on feed costs through the end of the 2011-2012 crop year in August. But there wasn’t a lot of coverage for the fall.”
“We had a lot of hogs come to market in August and September primarily because producers were trying to ship the hogs a little early to reduce weights. So, we had a surge of pigs that drove, what I think the prices to the seasonal low. I think we will kind of move sideways, still seeing some pretty substancial loss for cash markets this fall. The outlook for next year is a little better, but still not very good with only profits during the summer months. A real critical thing for producers right now is that we get rain next year.”
Steve also commented on what impact pork producers across the county would see if the farm bill wasn’t reinstated come January.
Dan Hughes, Vice Chairman for US Wheat Associates, shared his passion for the industry as a farmer and as an advocate for other US wheat producers.
“US Wheat Associates is a group of 19 states that has wheat checkoffs. These are funds generated by producers in each state to help in marketing and promotion. We take those funds and leverage with USDA funds. We get grants from the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program. For each dollar the producer puts in we get a grant for $2 or $3 from USDA. That is how we fund our overseas offices. We have 15 offices around the world. From Korea to Africa. From these locations we service the buyers of US wheat.”
“The lack of a farm bill is a great concern for us right at the moment. As I mentioned earlier we rely heavily on MAP and FMD funding from USDA. Currently without a farm bill those program have expired. So by the end of January we will have to begin closing offices overseas. That is really not expectable because we are not the only wheat supplier in the world.”
In this edition of the ZimmCast, we hear from farmer leaders, lobbyists and staff members with eight different agricultural and renewable energy organizations commenting on the election, farm bill, fiscal cliff and other related issues.
A poll for election day shows way more farmers say they are voting Romney over Obama for president.
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.
It may not be surprising that 92 percent of self-identified Republican respondents picked Romney as their presidential vote, but more than half (53 percent) of the self-identified Democrat respondents also picked Romney. Additionally, 74 percent of farmers who identified themselves as “other” in party affiliation expressed preference for Romney.
Asked whether Republicans or Democrats are to blame for the failure to pass a new farm bill, 46 percent answered Democrats while 28 percent said both parties are equally responsible. Nineteen percent blamed Republicans. Interestingly, 35 percent of self-identified Democrats blamed their own party, while only 7 percent of self-identified Republicans blamed theirs.
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.
American Farm Bureau Federation
American Pulse Association
American Soybean Association
National Association of Conservation Districts
National Association of Wheat Growers
National Barley Growers Association
National Corn Growers Association
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
National Farmers Union
National Milk Producers Federation
National Sunflower Association
United Fresh Produce Association
USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council
U.S. Canola Association
Western Growers Association
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.”
The current bill expires at the end of this month, but that does not mean an immediate return to the crop support programs of the 1949 law because most farm programs can continue to operate through the end of the year. But, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says some programs will expire at the end of this month. “The Export Assistance programs, the CRP sign up, the MILC dairy program, some of the conservation programs, and there’s no disaster assistance,” said Vilsack.
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.”
Vilsack fears that Congress will not pass a new farm bill during the lame duck session, meaning the measure would have to wait until the new Congress, which means the already passed Senate bill would be dead and they would have to start from scratch. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) vows to not let that happen. “I’m absolutely committed to doing everything humanly possible to complete the farm bill in November or December,” she said during a press conference last week.
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.