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Farmers, lawmakers pleased about Congress passing farm bill

By Norwalk Reflector staff • Dec 13, 2018 at 2:00 PM

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the The Agriculture Improvement Act, also known as the farm bill, sending the legislation to President Donald Trump for his signature to make it law.

The U.S. Senate approved the farm bill on Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) joined his colleagues in passing the Agriculture Improvement Act Conference Report, bipartisan legislation to support United States farmers.

The farm bill will keep in place important crop insurance programs which allow farmers to purchase policies that protect them against financial ruin brought by disease, drought or other catastrophic events.

In addition, the bill includes the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, legislation authored by Latta, to expand access to rural broadband so more farmers can use technology that is safer, more efficient, and sustainable.

“Farmers in Northwest and West Central Ohio help feed the United States and the world, and this legislation will provide needed certainty,” Latta said. “This bill provides farmers, agriculture producers, and rural communities with a number of tools to help them be successful and improve productivity and sustainability. The inclusion of the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act will also help farmers utilize the newest technology that can ensure they are able to farm in a more efficient, safer, and sustainable manner.”

Needed reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were also included the bill. For instance, the legislation creates a database so states can track a person’s history on and off SNAP benefits. It also eliminates the multiple issuances of SNAP coverage over state lines.

The farm bill was endorsed by a number of organizations including the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohio Corn and Wheat Association, Ohio Soybean Association, National Wildlife Federation, and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) said she has pushed for a comprehensive effort to invest in urban agriculture through her bill, the Urban Agriculture Production Act, and was instrumental in making sure urban agriculture was a priority in this farm bill.

In the bill, innovative and high-tech production will be supported by a newly created Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production. The office will serve as a policy and program development hub for non-traditional operations.

“One of our government’s most important duties is to ensure that our agriculture sector and our farmers have the resources they need to feed our nation,” Kaptur said. “I am pleased that a bipartisan agreement on the Farm Bill provides forward-thinking support for American producers through mandatory investments in research, urban agriculture and local and regional food systems.”

Additionally, the agreement continues conservation programming, especially important in the Western Lake Erie Watershed where such programs have been used to address nutrient run-off and control erosion.

“Though this is a good step, we still have more work to do to improve water quality in Lake Erie and regional tributaries,” Kaptur added. “Conservation programming remains a critical management tool as we work toward meeting our goals of healing Lake Erie. With this final bipartisan agreement Congress has provided stability to our farmers and businesses, fortifying our commitment to protecting our environment and making sure that families, and especially children who are struggling, don’t go hungry.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue also applauded passage of the farm bill.

“The passage of the 2019 Farm Bill is good news because it provides a strong safety net for farmers and ranchers, who need the dependability and certainty this legislation affords,” Perdue said. “This Farm Bill will help producers make decisions about the future, while also investing in important agricultural research and supporting trade programs to bolster exports. While I feel there were missed opportunities in forest management and in improving work requirements for certain SNAP recipients, this bill does include several helpful provisions and we will continue to build upon these through our authorities. I commend Congress for bringing the Farm Bill across the finish line and am encouraging President Trump to sign it.”

American Soybean Association officials said they were pleased with the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and Congressional leadership on both chambers’ quick actions to approve the farm bill and encouraged Trump to act quickly in signing the legislation into law.

“We are so pleased that the Senate and now the House have acted so swiftly to approve this bipartisan effort,” stated ASA President Davie Stephens, a soybean farmer from Clinton, Ky. “This legislation will undoubtedly provide a needed layer of stability and certainty for our soy industry and across agriculture. Timely passage of a new farm bill as opposed to another temporary extension this year will offer significant benefits to our industry, including resources for market development, crop insurance provisions, and more for the next five years.”

The 13 titles of the Farm Bill span programs affecting producers of food, feed, fiber and fuel, and that offer assurance the federal government will continue to provide assistance, when needed, through farm income support programs, nutrition and feeding programs, and through conservation, rural development, agricultural research, energy, and international agricultural development and food aid programs.

ASA today congratulated the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and Congressional leadership on release of a conference report that reflects a broad consensus of support for the “Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.” ASA strongly supports this legislation and urges the House and Senate to approve it this week so it can be enacted before Congress adjourns for the year.

“Enactment of a new farm bill on schedule has been a top ASA priority for the last two years,” stated ASA President Davie Stephens, a soybean farmer from Clinton, Ky. “This legislation will provide the risk management tools farmers need to navigate difficult economic conditions over the next five years. It provides full funding for the Foreign Market Development program and the Market Access Program – key partnerships under which ASA and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service work to expand developing and emerging country markets.” Stephens continued, “We commend Chairmen Conaway and Roberts and Ranking Members Peterson and Stabenow for finding compromises on several contentious issues, and urge President Trump to give his endorsement so this much-needed legislation can be delivered to farmers, ranchers and all rural Americans.”

The farm bill will extend authorization and funding for a broad spectrum of programs affecting producers and consumers of food, feed, fiber and fuel, not only in the United States, but also overseas programs that aid U.S. producers.

Spread across 13 titles, the farm bill provides assurances to all Americans that the federal government will continue to provide assistance, when needed, through farm income support programs, nutrition and feeding programs, and through conservation, rural development, agricultural research, energy, and international agricultural development and food aid programs.

Provisions in the bill important to soybean farmers include the following:

• Allowing producers to sign up for the county option under the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program or the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program for 2019-2020 crops, and annually for 2021, 2022, and 2023 on a farm-by-farm and crop-by-crop basis.

• Allows farmers to update their program yields, increasing the support they’re eligible to receive.

• Increasing the Marketing Assistance loan rate for soybeans by 24 percent, to $6.20/bu. from $5.00/bu.

• Establishes the Agricultural Trade and Facilitation Program, which will provide $255 million per year to fund FMD, MAP, emerging markets, and TASC. FMD is funded each year at not less than $34.5 million, and MAP is funded each year at not less than $200 million. A Priority Trust Fund will provide $3.5 million per year to programs for which requests are greater than the funds available. The Bill also allows FMD funds to be used in Cuba.

• Reduces mandatory funding of the Energy Title significantly, but continues baseline funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The Biobased Market Program will be funded at $3 million per year for 5 years – the only Energy Title program to get increased funding.

• Increases the overall acreage limit for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to 27 million from 24 million acres by FY 2023, including 8.6 million acres to be devoted to continuous practices and two million for grasslands. Limits Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) funding, and encourages States to give higher consideration to contracts that improve soil health.

• Maintains authorization for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) at $700 million per year and directs USDA to utilize the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) “Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030” consensus report, which identifies priority research areas for developing a more efficient, resilient, sustainable, and competitive U.S. agricultural system. ASA helped fund this study.

Crop insurance provisions allow producers to establish a single-enterprise unit across county lines. The language also includes cover crops as a good farming practice under crop insurance and ensures that the planting of a cover crop does not impact the insurability of a subsequent crop.

“ASA applauds the improvements in Title I support programs, including giving producers the option to choose between the county ARC and PLC programs in four of the five years of the new bill. This will allow farmers to respond to increased volatility in overseas markets and prices in coming years,” Stephens said. The ASA president added that, “The increase in the soybean loan rate will benefit farmers who need to access low-interest financing for their 2019 and future crops.”

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