In light of the steep, ongoing downturn in the farm economy, growing farm debt and lost access in some of farmers’ and ranchers’ biggest international markets, on-time completion of the farm bill is a must, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“The risk management programs in the farm bill help farmers deal with the shifting winds of agricultural markets and help our farmers compete against heavily subsidized commodities produced in foreign markets,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall wrote in a letter to House and Senate agriculture leaders. Both chambers have appointed their farm bill conferees, so work on a final bill is expected to soon begin.
The farm bill also helps farmers and ranchers weather natural disasters and provides a degree of certainty that in the event of a price decline or crop loss the operating loans needed to grow another crop, milk cows or care for livestock will come through, Duvall noted.
In the letter, the organization detailed aspects of the House and Senate farm bills it supports, such as improvements to the Price Loss Coverage program and the Agriculture Risk Coverage program, as well as those it opposes, like a mandatory base acre update.
Duvall said farmers and ranchers want to maintain funding for conservation programs and prioritize working lands. They do not support permanent Conservation Reserve Program easements or data-sharing practices that jeopardize privacy.
The availability of crop yield and/or revenue insurance is important to all growers, Duvall emphasized.
Regarding rural programs, farmers and ranchers are encouraging lawmakers to include in the farm bill a grant and loan program to assist with the establishment of agricultural association health plans, among other things.
On the regulatory reform front, the organization is calling for the removal of the national pollutant discharge elimination system permit requirement for approved pesticides and greater flexibility for the transportation of agricultural commodities and livestock, which should also include live fish and crawfish.
The group also highlighted specific concerns with the Senate farm bill conservation title, as it takes a significant step back from progress made in the 2014 farm bill.
“It adds multiple layers of bureaucratic hurdles and consultation requirements, and earmarks redirect funding away from on-the-ground conservation practices,” Duvall said.
The letter is posted below.