August 22, 2018
One year ago, Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron said the key to passing a farm bill would be keeping the nutrition component, which affects welfare recipients and not agriculture directly, within USDA and in the farm bill. Even though it’s the issue that the two houses in Congress disagree on the most, he hasn’t changed his mind.
“We simply don’t have enough clout anymore in Congress to get a farm bill passed without help from congressmen and senators from urban districts whose constituents care most about the nutrition title,” says Kron, Evansville, Ind.
“If the nutrition section wasn’t part of it, we don’t feel congressmen or senators which aren’t from rural areas would get excited about spending money for agriculture. We’re able to get support for what we need in agriculture because there are enough congressmen and senators who want a farm bill passed so the nutrition provisions pass.”
Exactly what those nutrition provisions will look like is yet to be determined, says Bob White, director of national government relations for Indiana Farm Bureau.
“Forty-seven conferees on the House side from five committees and nine senators on the Senate side will hash that out in September,” White says. “The two chambers are very far apart on language on the nutrition portion of the bill. The House version stipulates that 20% of recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds must work. The Senate version doesn’t have that requirement.”
Based on his observations, White believes the House provision isn’t realistic. The farm bill barely passed in the House, but the Senate version commanded an overwhelming majority. He’s expecting something similar to the Senate version of the nutrition section to emerge, but it’s a long way to the finish line.
Here is how the Farm Bureau leaders view the ag portions of the bill so far:
• Crop insurance. Both sides of Congress treated crop insurance relatively well, leaving subsidies near current levels. “Crop insurance is the key to the bill for farmers,” Kron says. “We need it to take some of the volatility out since we have depressed prices right now. What it does is helps smooth out some of the valleys in terms of crop revenue, and that’s important right now.”
• Conservation sections. Both Kron and White say conservation also was treated reasonably well in both bills that have passed the respective houses. There are differences, White notes, but most of the funding is intact.
It appears the cap for Conservation Reserve Program acres will be raised, but only for grasslands. The cap under the previous farm bill, which expires Sept. 30, was 24 million acres nationwide. That includes land in both the traditional, long-term CRP and the continuous CRP.
• CRP adjustments. Both versions of the farm bill that conferees will address include slight cuts to the amount farmers who enroll in the continuous CRP will receive for grass waterways, filter strips or other eligible practices. Payment rate was at cash rent values in the area. One version reduces that to 80% of the cash rent rate, and the other drops it to 90%. That is one provision the conferees must iron out, White says.
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