AP writer Steve Karnowski reported yesterday that, “An influential Minnesota voice on agricultural policy said Wednesday that he’s hopeful Congress will pass a new farm bill this summer after efforts last year failed amid election year politics.
“U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, threatened earlier this year to sit out the process of writing a new farm bill unless he got a guarantee from House Republican leaders that they’d let the legislation come up for a floor vote this time. Peterson told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he’s now ‘fairly comfortable’ with the assurances he’s received from Speaker John Boehner and others, so his name will be on the bill when it’s unveiled later this week.”
The article noted that, “Peterson said Boehner made it clear to him in their recent discussions that ‘he wanted to get this over with.’ And he noted that Majority Leader Eric Cantor said late last week that the House will vote on it this summer. Peterson said he’s optimistic that he and Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., will be able to keep the bill close to what the committee passes and get it into a conference committee where they’ll resolve the differences with the Democratic-controlled Senate’s version.
“The Senate’s version won’t cut SNAP as much as the House version, and Peterson said they’ll need to work out that difference. But he said he expects the most difficult problem to reconcile will be the different approaches between the House and Senate bills toward restructuring crop subsidy programs.”
Reuters writer Charles Abbott reported yesterday that, “Congress will begin writing a new, $500 billion farm law next week, the head of the Senate Agriculture Committee said on Tuesday, even as calls mounted for deeper cuts in farm subsidies and food stamp spending.
“The Senate panel has scheduled a bill-drafting session for May 14. Its House of Representatives counterpart, unofficially, aims to start writing its version on May 15.”
Mr. Abbott noted that, “Senate Agriculture chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, has said the Senate bill would cut farm bill outlays by $23 billion over 10 years. The House bill is expected to aim for savings of $35 billion over a decade.”
“Stabenow’s proposal would shave $4 billion from food stamps, compared with the $20 billion that House Agriculture Committee chairman Frank Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican, has targeted,” yesterday’s article said.
Chris Clayton reported on Friday at the DTN Ag Policy Blog that, “House Majority Leader Eric Cantor apparently won’t press another pause button on the farm bill.
“Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, sent a memo out Friday to other House Republicans. In it, Cantor outlined several key agenda items for the spring and summer, including another repeal vote on Obamacare, legislation to avoid rising interest rates for student loans and a bill to require the Securities and Exchange Commission to conduct more cost-benefit analysis for rule-making.
“In his memo, Cantor also stated on the summer agenda ‘and we will consider a farm bill produced by the Agriculture Committee and Frank Lucas.’”
Mr. Clayton added that, “The House Ag Committee is set for a May 15 markup for the farm bill and shooting to reduce the projected 10-year spending by $38 billion compared to current budget estimates.”
A Purdue Universitynews release indicated yesterday that, “Last year, farmers didn’t have nearly enough rain for their wilted, drought-ravaged crops. So far this year, they have too much of it – so much that they can’t get into their fields to work them for planting.”
The update explained that, “[Purdue Extension agronomist Tony Vyn] advises farmers anxious to get into their fields not to succumb to three common tillage temptations: tilling too early or too often and when it’s too wet. He says farmers need to be patient and wait for a break in the weather.
“That break will come, but slowly. The outlook for the first half of May is continued frequent rainfall with below-normal temperatures for Indiana, said the State Climate Office, based at Purdue University. Both temperature and rainfall should moderate to more typical May conditions later in the month… [W]hen farmers do get into their fields, [Purdue Extension corn specialist Bob Nielsen] says 25 percent to 30 percent of the corn crop could be planted in a week and the rest of it a week later – still in time for maximum yield potential.”
Chris Clayton reported yesterday at the DTN Ag Policy Blog that, “The Senate Agriculture Committee hasn’t announced a date yet to mark up the farm bill, but Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters Tuesday morning the committee will meet next week.
“Responding to a question about a mark-up session next week, Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, said, ‘That’s what I’ve heard and that’s what we’ll be ready for.’
“Grassley said most issues moving into the mark up have been resolved outside of the commodity title. ‘I’d say it’s the only title that’s not settled at this point. There’s pretty much agreement on the rest of the bill.’”
Mr. Clayton pointed out that, “Grassley acknowledged there would be attempts to reduce crop-insurance subsidies, but he said he didn’t think those would succeed. Grassley said 92% of farmers buy crop insurance. Attempts to limit it would reduce participation and lead to more payments for disaster programs.”
The DTN update added that, “Republicans are going to pursue more cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., a member of the committee, has introduced a bill meant to reduce SNAP, — formerly called food stamps — by $30 billion over 10 years.”
In an update Friday House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) stated: “Take a road trip across our country and you’ll easily see the diversity of American agriculture. Our farmers produce different crops, employ different growing techniques, and face unique market and weather risks.
“Despite these differences, our farmers have at least one thing in common: a belief that crop insurance is a vital risk management tool that must be preserved.
“Farmers borrow more money in a single year than most Americans will borrow in a lifetime just to produce a crop. The recent drought across the country can attest to the fact that when a farmer loses a crop due to a natural disaster, it’s likely that every farmer in that area is suffering the same loss.”
Chairman Lucas pointed out, “Meanwhile, crop insurance has been on the front line of budget savings: $17 billion worth over the past five years, even before sequestration.”
Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Thursday that the Senate will take up a five-year farm bill in May.”
Speaking on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Reid indicated that, “The Senate must complete work on job-creating water resources legislation and a Farm Bill during the May work period, so we can move forward on the immigration debate in June.”
The Hill update pointed out that, “The Senate Agriculture Committee has not announced an exact date for a markup of the bill. This time around, Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) will be working with a new ranking member Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who is sure to seek a stronger safety net for southern growers of rice and peanuts.”
In a presentation yesterday at a Rural Summit in Washington, D.C. (FarmPolicy.com transcript here), which was organized by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, Chairwoman Stabenow stated that, “As you, I’m sure, know, we passed a bill both in committee and in the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote last year. Folks said it couldn’t be done in the middle of a contentious election time, but everybody stepped up, and we worked hard together, and we got it done. The House committee worked in a bipartisan way and passed a bill out of committee. I worked very closely with the agricultural leadership, both the chairman and the ranking member in the House.
“And then something happened that has never happened before in the history of the country. The leadership in the House would not take up a farm bill. And so we’re having, unfortunately, to go back at it again, so in May we’ll be marking up our bill again. We’re going to be bringing it to the floor. I expect strong bipartisan support. The House committee will pass a bill out with strong bipartisan support.”
Chairwoman Stabenow added that, “We need your involvement and we need to make sure that by September 30th, when the current bill runs out on the farm bill, that we have in place a five-year jobs bill for rural America and agriculture that works.”
John Mason reported yesterday at The Register Star (Hudson, N.Y.) Online that, “A bill that would help young people get a foothold in farming was announced at Hawthorne Valley Farm Monday.
“U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson [R., N.Y.] pledged to lead the effort to include the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act in the Farm Bill.
“The bill is renewed every five years, and is due for renewal this year. If the act is included in the bill, it would mean about $55 million a year, Gibson said, spent in such areas as training new farmers, grants for marketing, business planning and creation of value-added products, loans for land purchase and farm startup, conservation easements to keep land affordable for working farmers, and aid to returning veterans wishing to get into farming.”
Policy Issues: Crop Insurance, CRP, Nutrition, Animal Production (Antibiotics), and Disaster Declaration
Christopher Doering reported yesterday at The Des Moines Register Online that, “Crop insurance indemnities have risen to a record $17 billion for 2012 crop year, the U.S. Agriculture Department said in its latest report issued on Monday.
“The figure, which was up more than $700 million from the prior week, pushed the total for 2012 to $16.99 billion. The number is higher than 2011 when a series of natural disasters ranging from a freeze in Florida to drought in Texas prompted insurance companies to pay out a record $10.8 billion to farmers, short of the $12 billion they collected in premiums.
“The 2012 drought spread beyond the Midwest to affect more than 60 percent of the contiguous United States, making it the worst since the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. A sharp drop in crop yields pushed corn and soybean prices to record highs during the summer and costs to feed U.S. livestock soared, forcing ranchers to send their herds to slaughter rather than pay the higher feed costs.”
Rob Schultz reported earlier this week at Madison (Wis.) Online that, “The number of state farmers buying crop insurance this year could increase 15 percent after last year’s drought showed how well the program worked.”
“‘Just cropping the land is getting more and more and more expensive, and there’s so much more risk out there from the inputs compared to what your return is. That used to be widening, now it’s narrowing,’ [Michelle Austin, director of insurance services for Badgerland Financial] said.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said Thursday that he will move ahead a farm bill markup May 15 despite pressure from the Republican leadership to take more time first and consider tougher changes in the food stamp program to win over conservative votes.
“Lucas told POLITICO that he was fully prepared to hold listening sessions first with the Republican whip’s office over the next month. But he wants to keep to his schedule and produce a bipartisan bill together with his ranking Democrat, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson.
“‘They suggested I take a little more time,’ Lucas said of a meeting Thursday with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and his top staff. ‘I said I wanted to go May 15 but would be happy to hold the listening sessions to hear what my colleagues think.’”
Mr. Rogers added that, “As the floor leader, Cantor is said to be worried still about the ability to win over conservative support for any farm bill, and Lucas has felt pressure from the leadership to steer more to the right and consider tougher work requirements for food stamp beneficiaries, for example.”
Several lawmakers highlighted farm policy related legislation this week.
A news release from Rep. Kristi Noem (R., S.D.) yesterday indicated that, “[Rep. Noem] introduced legislation today to provide a dependable safety net for livestock owners in South Dakota and across the United States. The Livestock Disaster Protection Act would extend the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Livestock Forage Program (LFP) and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill for five years, as well as retroactive coverage for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.”
“Rep. Noem will work with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas to include these provisions in the new Farm Bill, which is expected to be drafted in the coming weeks,” the release added.
Similarly, an update Tuesday from Sens. Mark Udall (D., Colo.) and Mike Enzi (R., Wyo.) stated that, “[Sens. Udall and Enzi] urged the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee to ensure that permanent livestock disaster assistance is included in the 2013 Farm Bill. Ranchers across the country need access to a strong and permanent safety net in light of the severe ongoing drought affecting much of Colorado, Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain West. A robust livestock insurance program, Udall and Enzi argued in their bipartisan letter, will give ranchers and cattle operators the assurance they need to continue to boost local economies and feed the nation.”
From the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), April 17- A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a new comprehensive immigration reform package. American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman talks about the importance of the legislation for U.S. agriculture.”
Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R., Ala.) noted at the outset of yesterday’s hearing that, “The budget includes proposals to eliminate direct payments to farmers, modify the Conservation Reserve Program, and change the crop insurance program. While these proposals may or may not have merit, they do have to go through the authorizing committees. One of the things that the authorizing committees agreed on last year, on a bicameral and bipartisan basis, as they were developing their respective versions of the farm bill was to reduce spending on SNAP. The Senate bill had a $4 billion reduction that passed the Democratic-controlled body, and the House bill had a $16 billion reduction that passed the full committee. Yet your budget proposes to maintain the increase that was provided in the Recovery Act at an additional cost of $2.3 billion. There just seems to be a disconnect here.
“Finally, I look at the President’s overall request and find that it is paid for by an additional $1.1 trillion in new taxes, and never balances. In a sense, this whole proposal really does fit the axiom, ‘dead on arrival.’”
In part, Sen. Roberts pointed to legislation he introduced last week relating to crop insurance. Noting the drought conditions on the high plains, he stated that, “We’re in desperate need of moisture, but we’re also in desperate need of crop insurance. That’s the number one item of concern, I don’t care what farm hearing you have, what region of the country you have, where you are, both the lender and the farmer need the crop insurance.”
Scott Wilson and Zachary A. Goldfarb reported in yesterday’s Washington Post that, “Five months after his resounding reelection victory, President Obama is bumping up against the boundaries of his political power in Washington as the core of his second-term legislative agenda moves into a still-divided Congress.
“His ability to secure the three high-profile legislative items now confronting Congress — gun-control measures, reform of the immigration system and his long-term budget priorities — is likely to determine his domestic legacy.”
In a radio interview earlier this week with Mick Kjar (Ag News 890, Terry Loomis, Farm Director (Fargo, ND)), House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) discussed several policy variables regarding the Farm Bill.
Rep. Peterson pointed to the likelihood that the House could move on the Farm Bill before the Senate does and highlighted the possibility of the legislation being marked up in the Committee around the week of May 6. (Ag News 890 audio clip here (MP3- 1:05)).