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Farm bill woes

By Staff | May 25, 2018



The farm bill that was being discussed by federal legislators failed to pass in the United States House of Representatives, and many ag groups, while they weren’t thrilled with the specifics, were still unhappy that it failed.

Among the groups that did like aspects of the bill was the American Soybean Association, which approved of several amendments attached to the proposed bill.

The bill’s failure concerns John Heisdorffer, an Iowa soybean grower and president of the ASA.

He said everyone depends upon the farm bill and it’s critical that something is done. The uncertainty looming from potential trade tariffs has only been intensified thanks to the proposed farm bill’s failure.

The National Corn Growers Association was also disappointed.

NCGA president Kevin Skunes, who also farms in North Dakota, said the initially released version of the farm bill satisfactorily restored full funding to the market access and foreign market development programs and made administrative reforms to the revenue-based agriculture risk coverage program, which were “welcome provisions for corn farmers facing uncertain times.”

“NCGA also appreciated the bill’s expansion of grower participation in working lands conservation programs and the research title’s funding for the phenotyping initiative,” he said in a statement. “Moving forward, NCGA will remain focused on our growers’ top policy concerns; a robust federal crop insurance program, ensuring the ARC-county program is a viable risk management option, and increased resources for trade promotion programs.”

The National Pork Producers Association applauded the initial House version because it contained language establishing and funded a vaccine bank that would aid in resolving any future outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the U.S.

NPPA president and Ohio producer Jim Heimerl said the bill had established $150 million for the vaccine bank, $70 million block grants to states for disease prevention and $30 million for the national animal health laboratory network for disease diagnostic support.

“The United States is not prepared for an FMD outbreak, so we are urging Congress to provide the full five-year mandatory funding,” Heimerl said. “We need this to protect the country from the financial devastation this dreadful disease would wreak on farmers and the U.S. economy.”

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, noted that the farm bill has been extended numerous times in the last 50 years, so it wouldn’t be surprising to him if that occurred again this year.

“I’m not hearing a lot from farmers about the farm bill,” Grassley said. “They’re more worried about trade.”

President Donald Trump had made it clear that he intended to veto any farm bill if it doesn’t include stricter work requirements for people on food stamps. Legislation that passed out of the House Agriculture Committee already tightened existing work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The House bill would have required all “work-capable adults” ages 18 to 59 to work or participate in work training for 20 hours each week, excluding seniors, disabled individuals, pregnant women and those caring for children younger than 6 years old.

The anti-poverty program serves more than 42 million Americans.

Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, said that existing legislation had “been doing basically the same thing with welfare since the since 1960s.”

“Unfortunately, we haven’t improved the number of people in poverty at all,” Marshall said. “All we’ve done is thrown trillions of dollars at the problem, so let’s try something different.”

Grassley said he had concerns about the “long list of provisions” that limited subsidy provisions that created new loopholes for people who don’t work on farms.

“They receive $250,000 subsidies in a single year,” Grassley said. “Such policies not only cheat taxpayers, but also devastate young and beginning farmers who are trying to compete for land. Additional assistance in excess of hundreds of thousands of dollars are being given to farmers who are already eligible.”

“Young farmers are the future of rural America.”

JanLee Rowlett, with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, said her organization was “encouraged by the provisions in the House’s version of the 2018 farm bill.”

“ICA was pleased to see full funding of the foot and mouth disease vaccine bank for the first year, but will be working toward full funding for the remaining four years as well,” she said. “Strengthening of the conservation title is also important for our membership. The House Ag Committee consolidated the best parts of Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) into EQIP and increased funding for that program, which is welcomed by cattlemen as EQIP has been an important tool in implementing practices to improve our conservation efforts.”

“It is also encouraging to see full funding of trade programs that help grow our global markets.”

Ron Birkenholz, spokesman for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, said the organization was “pleased with the farm bill passed by the U.S. House Agriculture Committee and the adoption of the key provisions that support U.S. pork interests.”

“Our top priority was the establishment and funding of a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank and the House ag bill does just that,” he said. “Iowa and the U.S. doesn’t have access to enough FMD vaccine to handle more than a very small, localized outbreak. The disease is endemic in many parts of the world and a U.S. outbreak would be devastating for producers.”

He added the pork industry had also asked for funding “for the eradication of feral swine that cause considerable damage and pose food safety risks, funding for the international market development program, including the market access program and the foreign market development program, which support U.S. exports. These issues are all important to the continued growth and success of the Iowa and U.S. pork industry.”

Carol Balvanz, director of policy for the Iowa Soybean Association, said prior to the farm bill’s defeat in the House, many farmers believed it would be a 2020 farm bill instead of a 2018 farm bill.

“They don’t have high expectations that we’re close to anything yet,” she said. “There still are interesting things contained in the House file, such as them not being opposed to increasing CRP. They do like the idea that we would use 80 percent of the county rental rate instead of the exorbitant rates that have been used for CRP in past years.”

“They see CRP as valuable in taking the acres that aren’t terribly productive and putting them to good use,” Balvanz said. “But our growers as really more concerned about maintaining export markets and demand, and building prices that way than we are about any farm program.”

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