Chris Clayton reported yesterday at the DTN Ag Policy Blog that, “Higher-income farmers and the crop-insurance industry are likely going to cope with reduced federal cost-cost share on crop insurance premiums.
“Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees passed farm bills out of committee without any income limits on crop-insurance premium subsidies. Through a bill amendment and a Sense of the House resolution, both chambers recognized that cutting back the premium subsidy is one small area of bi-partisan agreement among House and Senate leaders.
“The Senate farm bill lowers the premium subsidy for farmers making more than $750,000 in adjusted gross income, or $1.5 million for married couples. Those higher-income farmers would see their premium subsidy lowered 15 percentage points, from a maximum of 62% to 47%. The provision would affect about 20,000 farmers and save $1 billion over 10 years.”
Mr. Adams asked Rep. Noem: “Whether you are on it or not, are you hearing any indication of when those [House Farm Bill] conferees will officially be named and conference committee will start?”
The South Dakota Republican indicated that, “I think tomorrow. I think tomorrow is when the announcement will come out. But we’ll sure be willing to visit with you about it at that point in time, too. But we’ve been told that the official release will come tomorrow, and then after that we’ll be actively engaged.”
Farm Bill Issues: Title I, Conservation Compliance, SNAP
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “The biggest wild card in the farm bill this fall could be an old-new idea from weathered West Texas with the nickname: SCO.
“That stands for Supplemental Coverage Option — a mouthful for what began as a pretty straightforward plan to let farmers buy lower-cost crop insurance based on county-wide losses, not those of a single farm.”
Tom Cherveny reported this week at the West Central Tribune (Willmar, Minn.) Online that, “U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., told about two dozen farmers Monday in Montevideo that he remains pessimistic about passing a Farm Bill by the end of the month, when the current legislation expires.”
The article noted that, “Peterson, the ranking minority member on the House Agriculture Committee, said he and Republican chairman Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma ‘are going to try to figure out how to get this done.’”
Mr. Cherveny indicated that, “Peterson said southern states used to elect representatives who were concerned about agriculture. However, he said, the last two elections saw winners emerge from the South who could not ‘care less about farmers.’”
The article pointed out that, “Peterson said corn prices this year could fall below $4 a bushel, based on projections of a big crop. If the following year also produces a bumper crop, and $3.50-a-bushel corn, that becomes the maximum price at which farmers could insure their income. ‘You won’t be able to insure your crop at a level where you can make a profit,’ he said.”
Mike Lillis reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “The top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee has launched a new strategy for passing a farm bill this year: threaten to send milk prices skyrocketing.
“Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said he called Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack this week suggesting that the agency begin the process of implementing the 1949-era dairy policies that would take effect Oct. 1 if Congress fails to act on a farm bill before then.
“‘Clearly this is not going to get done by the 1st of October, so my suggestion to the secretary is that they should start now putting the framework together to implement the permanent law on dairy Jan. 1,’ Peterson said Wednesday in the Capitol. ‘And it sounds to me like they’re going to take a very serious look at that.’”
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stressed Tuesday that the Obama administration opposes another extension of the 2008 farm bill even though time is running short as the latest extension ends Sept. 30.
“‘An extension is not the answer, and I will tell you we are very much opposed to the idea of an extension and so is the Senate,’ Vilsack said in a conference call with reporters. ‘That’s just not going to happen.’”
Mr. Clayton explained that, “The House of Representatives could hold a floor debate as early as next week on a bill that would cut nutrition programs by as much as $40 billion over 10 years. The cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are 10 times the level passed in the Senate earlier this year. The administration also opposes the House SNAP proposal and is lobbying for its defeat. Vilsack called the SNAP vote a ‘foil’ for an argument over government entitlement programs.
“‘I sincerely hope it gets defeated and I sincerely hope that regardless of the outcome of that vote, that the House then gets serious about getting this farm bill done,’ he said. ‘To do that, they have got to get conferees appointed.’
“The Senate has been prepared to move to conference. Not so in the House. In fact, House members have indicated there is no likelihood of House leaders appointing conferees for the farm bill until after Oct. 1.”
The DTN article added that, “An extension rewards past failures and ‘creates great risk,’ Vilsack said. One concern would be if Congress were to eliminate the $4.8 billion annual direct payments in an extension without allowing at least some of those funds to be shifted elsewhere. That would translate into significantly steeper farm-program cuts than under either the Senate or House versions of the farm bill.”
Michael D. Shear and Jonathan Weisman reported in Thursday’s New York Times that, “The intensifying debate over military action in Syria is threatening to consume the limited amount of time that Congress had allocated this month for dealing with a budget clash and the rest of President Obama’s domestic agenda.
“Lawmakers are scheduled to return to reconvene Congress on Monday after their annual summer break. With a budget and debt limit clash looming in October, the legislative window had already narrowed for any action on immigration, energy efficiency, a new Federal Reserve chairman and an examination of surveillance laws.
“Now, with Mr. Obama’s surprise decision to request Congressional authorization for a Syria strike, the political casualties are mounting quickly.”
The Times article noted that, “The problem is especially striking in the House, which will barely be in session this month.”
Amy Dalrymple reported yesterday at The Grand Forks Herald (N.D.) Online that, “In the middle of a crew camp that houses North Dakota oil workers, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor got an earful about agriculture.
“Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, toured the Bakken on Wednesday to see North Dakota’s energy production firsthand, but he also talked one-on-one with Cando farmer Gene Nicholas about the state’s other leading industry.
“Nicholas, a retired state legislator, said he came away from the discussion with confidence that a farm bill ‘that we can live with’ will be passed this year.”
Ms. Dalrymple explained that, “Cantor’s visit was closed to the media except for a press conference in which Cantor took three questions.
“During the press conference, Cantor said Speaker of the House John Boehner will appoint members of a conference committee on the farm bill in September, after passing a bill dealing with food stamps.
“‘We in the House expect to move a nutrition title out of the House,’ Cantor said. ‘That title will reflect the reform agenda that we’ve been about in the nutrition program.’”
The article noted that, “Cantor, hosted by Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., met with energy industry and community leaders at a crew camp in Williston, toured a drilling site and other oilfield locations in the Bakken and met with North Dakota Petroleum Council members in Watford City.”
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “North Dakota’s congressional delegation issued a joint news release on Monday to highlight tweaks to USDA’s rules for prevented-planting crop insurance in 2014.
“The two senators and one congressman stated, ‘The new rules come following pressure from North Dakota’s delegation to clarify the rules and make the program work for producers.’”
Ursula Zerilli reported yesterday at the Kalamazoo Gazette (Mich.) Online that, “Signs at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market showing that vendors accept government-assisted cash were on display as U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., visited the market on Tuesday.
“Stabenow has been traveling the state visiting farmers markets this week to tout the 2013 Farm Bill. After visiting Hop Head Farms on Tuesday morning, she met with local food access activists and toured the Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market.”
Ms. Zerilli noted that, “The passage of the farm bill isn’t being held up by farm issues; instead, lawmakers are grappling with how the bill changes federal food stamp programs.
“‘There’s a tremendous amount of politics going on in the House of Representatives right now,’ Stabenow said. ‘Their bill will play politics with food assistance and cut 6 million off of getting temporary help when they are out of work and would at the same time not help us get a farm bill done.’”
Yesterday’s article pointed out that, “Stabenow said she was confident the bill will be passed this year. Lawmakers have a Sept. 30 deadline to pass a bill, but Stabenow said she wouldn’t be surprised if that deadline was pushed back.
“‘It may slip into October, but we will get it done,’ Stabenow said. ‘We have many things in the bill that make it worth passing. We are making major changes to help farmers markets and conservation with major new effort to protect the Great Lakes. We added something called bio-base manufacturing to create jobs and help us stop using petroleum for plastics and let us use food by-products to help get us off of foreign oil. The bottom line is every community is benefited from rural development, so we need to get the farm bill done.’”
A news release yesterday from Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) stated that, “[Stabenow] today met with community leaders at Hunter Park GardenHouse in Lansing to discuss how the production and sale of more locally grown foods boosts the local economy. According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, if every household spent just $10 dollars per week on locally grown food it would generate nearly $40 million in economic activity in Michigan. Senator Stabenow heard from local leaders who are working on food initiatives in Lansing that will help boost economic growth, support Mid-Michigan agriculture, and increase access to more locally grown, healthy food choices for families.”
The release noted that, “In June, the Senate passed Chairwoman Stabenow’s 2013 Farm Bill with wide bipartisan support (66-27). The Farm Bill expands support for community gardens, farmers’ markets and local food hubs to boost Michigan agriculture, our state’s second largest industry. The bill also strengthens crop insurance and provides disaster relief for fruit and vegetable growers who were affected by last year’s freeze and drought. While strengthening key initiatives to help farmers and agriculture businesses create jobs, the Farm Bill also cuts unnecessary programs and streamlines existing ones to reduce the deficit by $24 billion.”
Steve Carmody reported yesterday at Michigan Radio Online that, “Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow is hopeful getting a deal on a new Farm Bill won’t be derailed by a looming deadline to avoid a federal government shutdown.
“The current Farm Bill’s mix of farm subsidies and low-income food programs expires at the end of September. The next day, unless a budget deal can be reached, the federal government may have to shut down.”
Mr. Carmody noted that, “‘Regardless of the broader discussion going on the budget, we can get this done,’ says Stabenow.
“The Michigan Democrat, who leads the Senate Agriculture committee, says it’s up to the House Republican leadership to get behind one plan.
“‘We can get this done regardless of the broader debate on the budget,’ says Stabenow, ‘But we have to have a willingness by House leadership….the Speaker (John Boehner)…Majority Leader (Eric Cantor) have to decide they just want to get this done.’”
Ron Hays, writing yesterday at the Oklahoma Farm Report Online, provided a recap of an interview he had with House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) on Saturday. An audio replay of the discussion is available here.
In part, Mr. Hays noted that, “Lucas says rural America is concentrating on the Commodity Title- Title One- with the Senate and the House offering different plans in the measures that have cleared each respective body. Lucas says he has spent time in the corn belt both last year and this year- and the prospects of a bumper crop here in 2013 might force especially the corn farmers who has strongly called for the shallow loss plan advanced in the Senate to rethink what will help their producers. Lucas told Hays that when you start talking corn- ‘Now we’re bouncing around in the four dollar range, depending on which weather forecast you get- I would say there’s a distinct possibility that shallow loss revenue might not work for them’ [related clip on this issue here (MP3- 2:03)].
“Also discussed was Crop Insurance and the attacks on the program, Heritage Action’s call for a one year extension of current farm policy to get a chance for major reforms and why Chairman Lucas is interested in permanent law being updated to become the 2013 measure instead of the 1949 act.
“During his comments made to the farm audience- Lucas pledged ‘we will get a farm bill done this year’ and strongly defended the idea of changing permanent law- saying it’s much easier to defend a position established rather than having to advance new legislation every four to five years.”
Bloomberg writers John McCormick and Greg Giroux reported earlier this week that, “As the U.S. economy recovers from the worst recession since the Great Depression, the explosive growth of food stamps remains a lingering legacy. And now the program comes with an irony, as the Republicans seeking to cut it also represent vast numbers of recipients.
“Among the 254 counties where food stamp recipients doubled between 2007 and 2011, Republican Mitt Romneywon 213 of them in last year’s presidential election, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data compiled by Bloomberg. Kentucky’s Owsley County, which backed Romney with 81 percent of its vote, has the largest proportion of food stamp recipients among those that he carried.”
The Bloomberg article pointed out that, “Hal Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, represents the county and in winning his 16th term last year got 84 percent of its vote. His 5th congressional district in southeast Kentucky has the largest proportion of food stamp recipients among any held by a Republican, the data shows.”
A news release yesterday from Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.) stated that, “[DeLauro] led 204 House Democrats in calling on Speaker Boehner not to push more Americans into hunger. In a letter, they implored the Speaker to include funding for nutrition programs in any future Farm Bill that comes before the House of Representatives. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement supporting the letter.
“All the representatives and delegates who wrote to the Speaker opposed the version of the Farm Bill that passed the House of Representatives last month and did not include nutrition programs, as the Farm Bill traditionally has.
“‘The Republican leadership recently forced through a Farm Bill reauthorization, H.R. 2642, which did not include the nutrition title, a major part of the Farm Bill that would reauthorize SNAP,’ they wrote. ‘We voted against this bill in large part because of this intentional omission. We strongly believe in the critical importance of SNAP. Given the essential nature of this program to millions of American families, the final language of the Farm Bill or any other legislation related to SNAP must be crafted to ensure that we do not increase hunger in America.’”
Bruce Alpert reported late last week at the New Orleans Times-Picayune Online that, “The partisan battle over whether to cut spending on food stamps is likely to escalate next month when House Republicans are expected to offer a bill that would trim the program by $40 billion over 10 years, or five percent. That’s twice the reduction party leaders had originally proposed.”
“[Rep. Steve Scalise (R., La.)] said a key element of the new proposal is to deny benefits to adults who turn down a job. ‘It’s not fair to taxpayers for someone to get food stamps, who are turning down a job,’ Scalise said.”
AP writer Mary Clare Jalonick reported yesterday that, “The United States will cease paying a $147 million annual settlement to Brazil that is part of a long-running trade dispute over cotton subsidies, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday.
“The United States agreed to pay the money to Brazil in 2010, [additional background] just before the South American country was set to raise tariffs on hundreds of millions of dollars in American goods, including autos, pharmaceuticals and electronics. Stopping the payments could prompt Brazil to threaten retaliation again.
“Vilsack said in an interview from Brazil that he doesn’t have the authority to continue payments when the budget year begins Oct. 1 because Congress hasn’t yet passed a farm bill or a budget. Current farm law expires Sept. 30.”