Washington Advocacy

Public Hearing: The Next Farm Bill: Commodity Policy Part II
The Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management will hold a public hearing titled, “The Next Farm Bill: Commodity Policy Part II” on April 4 at 10:00 a.m. Witnesses include:

Panel I
Mr. Ronnie Lee, Chairman, National Cotton Council, Bronwood, GA

Mr. Blake Gerard, Chairman, USA Rice Farmers Board of Directors, Cape Giarardeau, MO

Mr. Tim McMillan, Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, Enigma, GA

Mr. Rob Rynning, President, U.S. Canola Association, Kennedy, MN, also on behalf of the National Sunflower Association

Mr. Jack Roney, Director of Economics and Policy Analysis, American Sugar Alliance, Arlington, VA

Click here to watch online.

USDA announces enrollment period for safety net coverage in 2017

Producers on farms with base acres under the safety net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill, known as the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs, can visit their local FSA office to sign contracts and enroll for the 2017 crop year. The enrollment period will continue until Aug. 1, 2017.

Since shares and ownership of a farm can change year-to-year, producers on the farm must enroll by signing a contract each program year. If a farm is not enrolled during the 2017 enrollment period, the producers on that farm will not be   eligible for financial assistance from the ARC or PLC programs for the 2017 crop should crop prices or farm revenues fall below the historical price or revenue benchmarks established by the program. Producers who made their elections in 2015 must still enroll during the 2017 enrollment period.

The ARC and PLC programs were authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and offer a safety net to agricultural producers when there is a substantial drop in prices or revenues for covered commodities. For more details regarding these programs, go to www.fsa.usda.gov or visit a local FSA office.

House Agriculture Committee reviews impact of environmental regulations
The House Agriculture Committee approved two measures regarding the regulation of pesticides. H.R. 953, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, would clarify congressional intent regarding pesticide regulation in or around waters of the United States.

A 2009 court decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit erroneously applied the provisions of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting process under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to pesticide applications that were already fully regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). This resulted in costly and duplicative burdens for many  farmers, ranchers, water resource boards and public health professionals involved in mosquito control, all without providing quantifiable public health or environmental benefits.

“The Agriculture Committee has now passed the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act five times. This unnecessary permitting process has not only cost American farmers time and money, it has also had implications for public health. It was never Congress’ intent to create two different permitting requirements. It is time for Congress to finally act to correct a misguided court decision and give farmers and pesticide applicators much needed relief from this costly and duplicative regulation,” says House Ag Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas.
H.R. 1029, the Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act, reauthorizes the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA). PRIA was intended to create a more predictable and effective evaluation process for affected pesticide decisions by coupling the collection of fees with specific decision review periods. It also promoted a shorter decision review period for reduced-risk pesticides.

PRIA has been reauthorized three times, with the most recent reauthorization due to expire on September 30, 2017. In addition to extending provisions, the bill adjusts fee amounts, increases transparency, encourages Good Laboratory Practices (GLP), and adds flexibility to the use of collected fees.

U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee kicks off farm bill hearing at Kansas State University
The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee held its first hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill at Kansas State University on Feb. 23, 2017. Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, provided the opening statement at the hearing titled “Hearing from the Heartland: Perspectives on the 2018 Farm Bill from Kansas.”

“We start the journey to a successful and timely 2018 Farm Bill in the Heartland, because that is where it matters most…on our farms, ranches, businesses, and city and county halls across the  countryside,” Roberts says. “Producers, agribusinesses, and our rural communities are the ones who sign up for programs, comply with regulations, and feel the  pain first-hand of over-burdensome or under-supportive policies.”

“So it is only right that we start this conversation here, with you. No one understands the impacts of farm bills or policies set in Washington like America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. Your experience – your story – is what we need to hear before we start writing a new Farm Bill,” Roberts adds.

The committee also heard testimony and was welcomed by U.S. Representative Roger Marshall of Kansas’ Big First District, a member of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, as well as Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dr. Jackie McClaskey and President of Kansas State University and Retired U.S. Air Force General Richard Myers.

Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, heard from two panels of witnesses representing agriculture and other stakeholders in rural communities.

The next field hearing, for the committee, is scheduled for Michigan, home of the committee’s ranking member Stabenow.

U.S. House Ag Committee holds hearing on economic challenges facing rural America
The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on Feb. 15, 2017, to review the economic challenges facing rural America. Members heard from several witnesses who highlighted these factors, including low farm commodity prices, declining net farm income, tightening credit conditions, a strong dollar, and unfair trade practices by foreign competitors.

“There is real potential for a crisis in rural America,” says House Ag Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas. “Net farm income for America’s farmers and ranchers has fallen 50 percent over the past four years with the collapse in commodity prices. As we begin the farm bill process, these economic realities must be front and center. The farm bill serves as a safety net for producers, helping manage risk in difficult times. We are in those times now, and we must deliver   solutions that work for our nation’s farmers and ranchers.”

Witnesses during the February hearing included:
Dr. Robert Johansson, chief economist, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
Dr. Nathan Kauffman, assistant vice president and Omaha Branch executive, Omaha Branch – Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Omaha, Nebraska
Dr. Joe Outlaw, professor and Extension economist, Texas A&M University, Department of Agricultural Economics, College Station, Texas
Dr. Patrick Westhoff, professor, director for the Food and Agricultural Research Institute, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri
Dr. D. Scott Brown, assistant extension professor, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri

The committee’s next scheduled 2018 Farm Bill hearings are as follows:
Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture – The Next Farm Bill: International Development
Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry – The Next Farm Bill: Conservation Policy.