Groups on Tuesday offered opinions on the hits and misses in the language of the 2014 farm bill, which was released by the lead negotiators on the conference committee late Monday.
Several groups stepped up immediately to offer support to the bill, highlighting risk management program reform.
"We're especially pleased the legislation provides an adequate and flexible farm safety net as well as a strong federal crop insurance program," noted National Corn Growers President Martin Barbre.
The new bill also includes an option for farmers to participate in a modified Agriculture Risk Coverage program, he pointed out, a NCGA priority.
American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman highlighted provisions that would provide risk management offerings to fruit and vegetable farmers and will support livestock farmers during disasters. AFBF, too, urged quick passage of the bill.
Also urging the House and Senate to vote for the bill, American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser said the framework suits the interests of soybean growers.
"The bill establishes practical risk management programs that will protect us in difficult times. That's been our top priority from day one," said Gaesser. "But beyond that, we support this bill because it strengthens crop insurance; includes a streamlining and optimizing of conservation programs; funds critical energy and agricultural research initiatives; and invests in the trade development programs that are so critical to the soybean industry."
The bill also secures several other ASA priorities, including agricultural research programs like the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative and the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, as well as the Foreign Market Development Program and Foreign Market Access Program.
ASA pointed out that the bill also addresses U.S. budgetary issues by cutting $24 billion over ten years, making agriculture the only industry sector that has come together despite its differences and contributed to deficit reduction.
"The bill is a compromise," Gaesser added. "It ensures the continued success of American agriculture, and we encourage both the House and the Senate to pass it quickly."
The National Association of Conservation Districts said the conference report included two of its top priorities: conservation compliance tied to crop insurance, and language to streamline the conservation Technical Assistance delivery process.
"Our nation's farmers and landowners deserve to have long-term certainty to effectively and efficiently manage their land, resources and businesses for the years ahead," said NACD President Earl Garber. "Locally-led conservation is critical for America's long-term environmental and economic stability."
Expanding on conservation offerings in the report, Ducks Unlimited, Inc. pointed out that bill includes a regional program that will affect the nation's top duck producing states. It is designed to encourage the conservation of remaining wetlands and grasslands.
"The 2014 Farm Bill is arguably one of the best agriculture conservation bills for sportsmen and ducks that we've seen in a long time," said DU CEO Dale Hall. "Our nation is currently experiencing a rate of wetland and native prairie loss not seen since the Dust Bowl. The proactive conservation programs included in the 2014 Farm Bill will help deter wetland drainage and incentivize the conservation of these valuable lands while keeping working farmers and ranchers on their land."
The National Association of Counties said the bill also includes several benefits to rural development, and the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, which is extended for 2014.
PILT payments, NACo said, allow local governments to provide services for residents such as education, solid waste disposal, law enforcement, search and rescue, health care, environmental compliance, firefighting and parks and recreation.
Opposition cites COOL, SNAP cuts
Other groups opposed to the bill cited food stamp issues, the Country of Origin Labeling requirement and other policy additions as key hang-ups.
Heritage Action, a conservative think tank, said the cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance didn't go far enough.
"Even after the dramatic loosening of eligibility standards contributed to one in seven Americans now collecting food stamps, the conference report contains minuscule reforms," an HA statement said. "All told the proposal is expected to save just one percent. That is below the 5% cut passed by the House last September and well below the 17% reduction outlined in the House-passed budget.
"The mere inclusion of food stamps in the so-called "farm bill" is purely political," they added. The group also opposed the Agriculture Risk Coverage program, the Price Loss Coverage program.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Pork Producers opposed the bill because it failed to repeal Country of Origin Labeling. Both groups say COOL is a costly measure that causes prejudice against trading partners Canada and Mexico.
The regulations, which have been revised to more adequately reflect World Trade Organization stipulations, are still not WTO compliant, the groups say.
“Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling … was created without the consent of producers and has been a failure by every measure," NCBA said.
“We are disappointed in all members of Congress and especially the members of the Conference Committee for allowing this process to go this far without a solution. Failure to fix MCOOL at this juncture will lead to retaliatory tariffs on a host of commodities and it is only a matter of time before the World Trade Organization rules in favor of Canada and Mexico. Once that happens, producers will realize the full costs of this failed legislation."