Coalition releases statement on Farm Bill expiration

In August, we reported on the formation of the Farm Bill Now coalition, more than 35 agricultural organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, that have united to urge congressional lawmakers to pass a five-year farm bill before the current programs expire in September. The current Farm Bill expired on Sept. 28. The coalition has released the following statemet:

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. Following is a summary of these impacts.

Programs Affected by Expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill

Dairy producers will face considerable challenges. The Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program expired on Sunday. That program compensated dairy producers when domestic milk prices fall below a specified level. Without a new farm bill, dairy farmers are left with uncertainty and inadequate assistance. While milk prices are high enough that the price support program doesn’t kick in; unfortunately, there is no other safety net to help battle the highest feed costs on record.

Many farmers, ranchers and agribusiness or agricultural processors benefit from the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD). FMD is a cost-sharing trade promotion partnership between USDA and U.S. agricultural producers and processors. The program pools technical and financial resources to conduct overseas market development. FMD helps maintain and increase market share by addressing long-term foreign market import constraints and by identifying new markets or new uses for the agricultural commodity or product in the foreign market. That funding, as well as specific funding for personnel to run the program at USDA, will run out at the end of October. Since 31 percent of our gross farm income comes from exports which also make a positive contribution to our Nation’s trade balance, trade promotion is an important part of our safety net. Other countries will most certainly take advantage of the fact that the program is rendered inoperable and will do what they can to steal our markets – and everyone knows, the hardest market to get is the one you lost.

About 6.5 million acres rotates out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) this year. 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.

Both versions of the new Farm Bill contain funding for the disasters facing the livestock industry due to the drought. However, programs are currently only available for lack of forage, as well as death of animals.

Most producers of fruits and vegetables do not have a safety net, but instead receive funding to augment the competitiveness of specialty crops through programs that enhance trade, promote cutting-edge research, and implement on-the-ground projects to protect crops from disease and invasive species. Funding for these programs ended when the Farm Bill expired.

Numerous other programs, including energy, agricultural research, rural development and funding for new and beginning farmers could be added to this list of affected programs. The bottom line is that while expiration of the Farm Bill causes little or no pain to some, others face significant challenges.

Programs Not Affected by Expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill

Almost 80 percent of the Farm Bill’s cost is for nutrition programs – primarily the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly commonly known as food stamps. Most recipients of nutrition program benefits will not be affected because the SNAP program did not need to be extended. Funds for nutrition assistance programs will continue to be provided to those Americans without issue.

Farmers and ranchers who manage their risks using the farm bill’s crop insurance provisions will be unaffected because, like SNAP, those programs don’t expire. Nor do some of the conservation-related programs. In addition, most commodity-specific programs are largely covered by the 2008 Farm Bill since it applies to the 2012 crop year, rather than the 2012 fiscal year. The main challenge, however, will be in planning for 2013. This includes lining up the critical financial assistance needed from lending institutions which prefer, if not demand, to see business plans presented in black and white. That will be difficult when producers don’t know when to expect a new Farm Bill – or what type of financial safety net is likely to be included in that bill.

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

AFBF, Others Urge Senate to Refrain from Disaster Bill

The American Farm Bureau Federation has urged Senate leaders to “refrain from supporting” any legislation resembling the House-passed disaster bill if such a measure is presented in the Senate. Supporting such a measure would detract from the larger mission of passing a long-term farm bill.

In a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), AFBF and a dozen other national agriculture organizations said that passing the House disaster bill as a quick fix would do more harm than good to farmers and ranchers.

“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 group urged the Senate leaders to reach agreement on a new farm bill before the current program expires on Sept. 30. The House Agriculture Committee’s bill, coupled with the Senate bill passed in June, would provide much needed disaster relief with long-term benefits.

“Both the Senate and the House Agriculture Committees have produced reform-minded, bipartisan bills that address many of the core principles we believe are important, such as strengthening crop insurance as a reliable risk management tool,” concluded the letter. “We remain committed to attempting to pass a five-year farm bill as soon as possible, including the long-term provisions it includes, which would help alleviate the emergency conditions we are seeing across the country.”

The letter was also signed by the following groups: American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Milk Producers Federation, National Sunflower Association, Northarvest Bean Growers Association, United Fresh Produce Association, U.S. Canola Association, USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council and Western Growers.

Ask members of Congress to act on Farm Bill through new Web site

More than 35 agricultural organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, have united to urge congressional lawmakers to pass a five-year farm bill before the current programs expire in September.

“Calling the farm bill the ‘farm bill’ suggests its impact is limited only to farms and to the rural areas to which they are so closely tied. It’s really a jobs bill. A food bill. A conservation bill. A research bill. An energy bill. A trade bill. In other words, it’s a bill that affects every American,” the groups say in emphasizing the legislation’s reach beyond farming and ranching.

The full statement is available on the coalition’s website,, where visitors to the site can also contact their members of Congress.

Along with a listing of the coalition members and key points about the farm bill and why immediate action is critical, the site makes it easy for farmers, ranchers and consumers to tell their lawmakers how important the farm and food bill is to them.

Click below for a list of organizations that make up the Farm Bill Now coalition.  

• 25×25 Alliance

• Agricultural Retailers Association

• American Beekeepers Federation

• American Farm Bureau Federation

• American Feed Industry Association

• American Pulse Association

• American Seed Trade Association

• American Sheep Industry Association

• American Soybean Association

• American Sugar Alliance

• Biobased Products Coalition

• Council of State Governments East

• Council of State Governments Midwest

• Farm Credit Council

• National Association of Wheat Growers

• National Barley Growers Association

• National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

• National Corn Growers Association

• National Cotton Council

• National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

• National Farmers Union

• National Milk Producers Federation

• National Potato Council

• National Sorghum Producers

• National Sunflower Association

• Northharvest Bean Growers Association

• Northeast State Association for Agricultural Stewardship

• Produce Marketing Association

• Southern Peanut Farmers Federation

• Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance

• State Agriculture and Rural Leaders

• United Dairymen of Arizona

• United Fresh Produce Association

• U.S. Canola Association

• U.S. Dry Bean Council

• USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council

• USA Rice Federation

• Western Growers Association

• Western Peanut Growers Association

Breaking News: Senate Passes Farm Bill

Wilmer Stoneman
Associate Director
Governmental Relations

Many thought the odds were against it, but the farm bill has made it over a major hurdle. Senators approved their version of the bill (S. 3240) in a strong bipartisan vote of 64 to 35.

But this is just the first step. We still have a lot of concerns that need to be addressed as the farm bill moves forward. The House Agriculture Committee announced earlier this week that it was postponing its consideration of a farm bill draft until July 11. The committee was originally slated to take the legislation up next week.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said this yesterday: “There is still a lot of hard work ahead to fully secure the kind of policy we believe our farm and ranch families need, but we applaud the Senate for approving a workable bill and moving this process forward. The Senate has provided us solid footing by approving a bill that stands firm on $23 billion in savings, yet protects and strengthens the federal crop insurance program and provides a commodity title that attempts to encourage producers to follow market signals rather than make planting decisions in anticipation of government payments.”

 In votes taken Wednesday, Farm Bureau was successful in: opposing an amendment that would have prohibited any program to promote and provide research and information for a particular agricultural commodity without reference to specific producers or brands (a check-off program) from being mandatory or compulsory; opposing an amendment that would have eliminated the $4 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program and added $50 million annually to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program from the current $150 million authorization; opposing an amendment that would have imposed a $250,000 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) means test for all programs in the farm bill, including conservation; and opposing an amendment that would have reduced loan rates and eliminated other changes to the sugar program made in the 2008 farm bill.

Farm Bureau was not successful in efforts: to oppose an amendment requiring conservation compliance as a requisite for crop insurance; and to oppose an amendment establishing payment limits for marketing loans and loan deficiency payments at $75,000 a year for individual farmers and $100,000 a year for couples. 

Farm Bureau’s position was also unsuccessful when an alternative amendment passed that would limit crop insurance premium subsidies to any person with an adjusted gross income exceeding $750,000. AFBF had supported a related unsuccessful amendment that called for a study of such an eligibility requirement and to disallow the action if it carried negative ramifications for the cost, availability or administration of the crop insurance program.

Multi-Legged Stool Best Approach for Farm Bill

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman testified Wednesday before the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management to reiterate AFBF’s priorities for the 2012 farm bill and suggest enhancements to the current farm bill and the Senate Agriculture Committee-passed farm bill.

Stallman’s testimony was based on the premise that the House Agriculture Committee will draft farm legislation that reduces spending by $23 billion over the next 10 years, with proportional cuts of $15 billion in commodity program reductions, $4 billion in conservation program reductions and $4 billion in nutrition program reductions. Stallman called for a Supplemental Coverage Option whereby row crop and specialty crop producers could purchase a county-level, revenue-protection policy on top of their individual crop insurance coverage to cover all or part of the farmer’s deductible. Also, restoring non-program crop disaster programs such as the Livestock Indemnity Program, Livestock Forage Program and Tree Assistance Program would help those producers deal with catastrophic losses.

“Continuation of a multi-legged stool remains the best approach for providing a fair and effective safety net, which should consist of a strong crop insurance program, continuation of the current marketing loan provisions and a catastrophic revenue loss program,” said Stallman. The purpose of the hearing was to review commodity programs and crop insurance options for 2012 farm bill.” said Stallman

In its farm bill proposal, AFBF has prioritized (1) protecting and strengthening federal crop insurance funding and not reducing funding for that program; (2) developing a commodity title that encourages producers to follow market signals rather than making planting decisions in anticipation of government payments; and (3) refraining from basing any program on cost of production.

“These deep loss events that would endanger the financial survivability of the farm are typically beyond any producer’s control, and, in the past, have prompted enactment of ad hoc disaster programs,” Stallman said. “Our plan focuses on protecting farmers from these situations and brings program benefits into play only when they are needed, rather than being considered a supplemental source of annual income.”

The letter stated, “The renegotiation of the Standard Reinsurance Agreement resulted in a $6 billion reduction to the program, with $4 billion in savings applied to deficit reduction. We believe additional reductions would seriously affect producer access to crop insurance coverage and threaten efficient private-sector delivery following disasters.”

Earlier this week, Farm Bureau signed on to a letter urging the House to support the crop insurance program with most of the other commodity groups and farm organizations, including the American Soybean Association, American Sugarbeet Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Farmers Union, National Sorghum Producers, National Sunflower Association, U.S. Canola Association and USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council.

Rep. Goodlatte receives ‘Golden Plow’ Award at Valley Farm Bill Forum

Virginia Farm Bureau Federation President Wayne Pryor and American
Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman presented Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)
with the AFBF Golden Plow Award last week.

Last week, Congressman Bob Goodlatte received the Golden Plow award for his continued support of America’s farmers and ranchers. The Golden Plow award is the highest honor bestowed on Members of Congress by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). Goodlatte was presented the award by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation President Wayne Pryor and AFBF President Bob Stallman during a forum on the 2012 Farm Bil Conservation Programl in the Shenandoah Valley.

“Congressman Goodlatte is a vigorous defender of private property rights, both real and intellectual, and he continues to lead the fight against regulatory overreach. He is a champion for private forestry and has worked tirelessly to ensure farmers of all sizes have access to the conservation programs that assist them in maximizing their farms’ economic returns while contributing measurable results toward enhancing the environment.”

The Virginia Farm Bureau nominated Goodlatte for the award. According to Stallman, since Goodlatte was first elected in 1992 to represent Virginia’s 6th Congressional District, he has “applied his common sense, expertise and determination to finding solutions to the challenges facing American agriculture.”

Goodlatte and Stallman also discussed the development of the next Farm Bill and the future of programs to help area farmers address water quality.

Many of the federal conservation programs that farmers across the Commonwealth use to implement a variety of environmental protection practices will expire on October 1, 2012. Practices include stream fencing, rotational grazing, buffers, cover crops, nutrient management, and many others.  These are critical for the management of our farms and the ability to comply with governmental mandates regarding water quality. The deadlines associated with the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) will not allow any delay or missed steps in implementation of such practices. 

“There are huge cuts compared to what was available when the last bill was written,” Goodlatte said. “It’ll be very difficult to write a farm bill in this environment.”

The event was held in a new winter feeding facility at Bob Threewitts’ Twin Oaks Farm in Keezletown. Installing the building was a voluntary conservation practice, which allows cattle manure to be contained in one area, Threewitts said.