FarmPolicy

April 29, 2017

Market Conditions Prompts “Early Farm Bill” Discourse

Categories: Farm Bill

Renée Jean reported yesterday at the Williston Herald (N.D.) Online that, “The ink is barely dry on $7 billion in 2015 payments from the 2014 farm bill’s market-based programs to assist farmers with low prices, but the adequacy of both Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage payments likely to be a hot topic for 2017.

“While the Farm Bill doesn’t expire until Sept. 30, 2018, some are calling for a new farm bill as early as possible. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), for example, on Wednesday said he cannot see why the bill couldn’t get done a year in advance, to better help farmers with prices this year, which have been even lower than 2015.

“That kind of talk is pushing senators in both Montana and North Dakota to get their ear to the farm ground early on the farm bill. North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) and Montana Senators Jon Tester (R) and Steve Daines (R) have already scheduled listening tours to collect input. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven said he would start his listening tours in 2017.”

The article noted: “‘We should start early and get this wrapped up as soon as possible,’ Daines said. ‘I think it is ridiculous we cannot get a farm bill put together sooner, to remove that uncertainty from the farmer. They face uncertainty all the time from the weather and other things. They don’t need additional uncertainty from Washington, D.C. Let’s get this done a year in advance.'”

Yesterday’s article added that, “‘The push is going to be on to get this done sooner than later and not drag this out,’ [Sen. Heitkamp] said. ‘I’d like to see a farm bill reauthorized before the termination of this one in the Senate.'”

Nonetheless, Ms. Jean pointed out that, “Hoeven, who sits on the committee that writes the farm bill, said an early bill is not only unlikely but impossible. But, he added, they can work on other things to help farmers in the meantime.”

In a separate article last week at the the Sidney Herald (Mont.) Online, Renée Jean reported that, “The ball is already on the ground and rolling for the 2018 farm bill, and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., had his ear to the ground for those issues most on farmers’ minds during a visit to Sidney Sugars Wednesday, where growers talked about the increasing difficulties they face getting to a profitable harvest.”

The article noted the importance of crop insurance to producers: “Crop insurance is becoming more and more necessary to the survival of family farms, said Don Steinbeisser Jr.

“‘My grandfather didn’t even know what it was, much less use it,’ he said. ‘Now if you have a bad year, you need it. The bank’s not going to ignore it.'”

Despite the chatter about an early Farm Bill, recall that last month, the Chairman of both the House and Senate Ag Committees expressed reluctance about the concept of an early Farm Bill while speaking at a public forum at the Kansas State Fair.

At that forum, House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R., Tex.) noted that low prices have spurred calls for re-opening the Farm Bill and for consideration of ad hoc disaster assistance; he indicated that “we are going to be very resistant to that.” Similarly, Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) pointed out there could be a risk of losing more than could potentially be gained if the Farm Bill was opened back up.

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