The American Soybean Association, National Corngrowers Association, National Sunflower Association and the U.S. Canola Association sent a letter to House lawmakers Thursday urging quick passage of the House Farm Bill and outlining key areas of support and concern.
Overall, the organizations were content with many of the reforms included in the bill, specifically the conservation program consolidation measure, reauthorization of funding for agricultural research and energy, support for export promotion programs and changes to the federal crop insurance program.
The groups asked specifically that lawmakers support the provisions as well, and refrain from adding amendments that change the language to eliminate or weaken them.
"We are very encouraged by the momentum that the farm bill has going into the House, and we urge Representatives to act quickly to provide farmers with the certainty we need moving forward," said ASA President Danny Murphy.
"We are convinced that lawmakers can work together to pass a bill that both supports agriculture and confronts our budgetary obligations responsibly."
NCGA President Pam Johnson said her organization was pleased to see a strong showing in the Senate, and was looking forward to House passage of a Farm Bill that followed suit.
"Passing a comprehensive, market oriented farm bill is critically important to not only agriculture but to every American," Johnson explained. "We encourage the House to adopt policy that will be both responsive to taxpayers and effective in helping farms remain viable and productive."
Though the groups praised several programs, they also asked that lawmakers consider reforms to the bill's Price Loss Coverage option. The PLC, they said, would set high fixed reference prices for program crops which exceed their historical prices and cost of production. They argued that the program would also tie payments to producers to crops they grow in the current year, distorting planting decisions and production if markets fall below support levels.
The groups said since the 1996 Farm Bill, farm policy has relied on prompting from market signals.
"We do not want to see policies return to the era of high supports tied to current-year plantings, which distorted crop production in the 1980's," the groups said. "The PLC program in the Committee bill should be modified to make it responsive to the market rather than the government."
The ASA has spoken against the policy before. In late 2012 when Congress was considering rolling Farm Bill provisions into fiscal cliff negotiations, ASA said soybean farmers would receive less protection than producers of other crops, and the soybean share of crop production in almost all regions would be adversely affected.
There's been talk already of amendments that may surface to remove the Price Loss Coverage option. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, is expected to put one forth that would set reference prices at a percentage of recent average market prices, which do not exceed production costs.
The Gibbs amendment would also provide for payments on historical crop acreage bases rather than on current-year plantings.
The groups said the proposed changes would make the PLC program more market-oriented and significantly reduce the risk of distorting planting decisions and production and also reduce the likelihood of the program violating U.S. commitments under the WTO.
The groups estimate the Gibbs amendment would add $10 billion in savings in addition to the Committee bill. The Congressman also spoke last month regarding his intentions for the upcoming floor time on the House Farm Bill.
Gibbs noted that crop insurance provides protection but "rice and peanut farmers (are) gaining the most from the new Price Loss Coverage program," he noted, adding that corn and soybean farmers are "on the losing end."
Click here to read the full letter.