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April 23, 2012

AFBF Reacts to Senate Farm Bill Proposal

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

This week the Senate Agriculture Committee will vote on its version of the farm bill. American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman says farmers and ranchers throughout the country are glad to see the progress. AFBF’s Johnna Miller has the story.
Miller:The Senate Agriculture Committee will start voting on provisions of its 900 page farm bill proposal this week. Bob Stallman is president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest farm organization, and he says it’s good to see progress on this legislation that’s so important to the farmers and ranchers throughout the country.
Stallman:We are pleased that the Senate Ag Committee is moving forward. It’s one of many steps that has to occur before we can get a farm bill this year which is our ultimate goal. 
Miller:Stallman says, as with virtually any legislation, there are some parts that get a thumbs up…
Stallman:At this point, the ag committee is the only committee that has voluntarily offered up budget savings. In other words, we are concerned about the fiscal situation this country faces and the Senate Ag Committee offered up $23 billion in savings and they’ve taken the rest of the dollars that remain in the budget baseline to try to craft a program that provides some degree of safety net for producers, but nothing like we’ve had in the past. In essence it’s more of a risk management approach, more of an insurance-based approach as opposed to having just regular payments made to farmers.
Miller:…and areas of concern…
Stallman:It does not include a catastrophic revenue loss program based on county level losses. It’s the best way for government to assist producers. What this does is protect producers from those catastrophic losses whether they’re caused by Mother Nature or by very tremendous price drops that would cause a producer to have their farm at risk. It wouldn’t pay producers very often, but when the need was there from a catastrophe the program would be there Instead a so-called shallow loss program has been substituted for that and we really believe that actually creates an environment where producers will be paid on a much more frequent basis. More risk would be taken from producers than what we really think should be the case in terms of a government program.
Miller:Johnna Miller, Washington.
Miller:We have three extra actualities with AFBF President Bob Stallman. In the first extra actuality he talks about some of the advantages of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s farm bill proposal. The cut runs 15 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Stallman:There are some very positive components in this bill. It does things to protect and strengthen the federal crop insurance program and it was very good at developing a commodity title that allows producers to follow market signals rather than making planting decisions in anticipation of government payments.
Miller:In the second extra actuality Stallman talks more about the concerns. The cut runs 39 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Stallman:We’re also concerned the bill further lowers payment limitations and the adjusted gross income provision which basically caps payments. We are not in support of that. And we’re a little concerned about the equity across commodities. There are some pretty major shifts and while we don’t necessarily have to maintain the same amount of support to all commodities that has existed in the past, we really think that we should have more equity than what exists with some of the programs. And then there is this new base acre calculation that will allow you to be eligible for the shallow loss program that basically recalculates a new base and frankly our goal was to get away from base acres and focus on planted acres in terms of eligibility for programs.
Miller:In the third extra actuality Stallman talks about changes to the conservation section of the farm bill. The cut runs 41 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Stallman:We have said all along there are frankly too many different conservation programs so we have supported consolidation of programs to more easily deal with signing up for these programs. The proposal does consolidate 23 conservation programs into 13 programs and we believe that simplifying will allow producers easier access to those programs and also make it easier for producers to understand the requirements that they’re going to have to meet. I think the general public should be very pleased by this because this will reduce government administrative costs. It will encourage more conservation activities which is a positive for the environment. So the general public, even though many are not aware that these types of programs are in the farm bill, should be very pleased with these changes. 
Miller:Newsline is updated Mondays and Thursdays by 5pm Eastern time. Thank you for listening.

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