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US Farm Groups Clarify Priorities in Next Farm Bill
Major U.S. farm groups are rallying their demands for the next farm bill — the massive legislation that Congress rewrites every five years to set farm and food policy — with crop insurance and disaster assistance topping the list . A panel of farm group leaders detailed some of their concerns and demands for the upcoming farm bill last Tuesday at Minnesota FarmFest, an agri-food fair hosted by the U.S. Agricultural Bureau. The panel brought together major agricultural groups representing hog, cattle, corn, soybean and other producers. The groups all have a vested interest in supporting agriculture, but some differing priorities as to where Congress should invest in agricultural policy. Every five years, Congress establishes programs and mandatory funding levels for crop subsidies, crop insurance, farmland conservation programs, and energy programs in the Farm Bill. The farm bill also includes nationwide food and nutrition programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, and parent and child assistance programs. low income. The current Farm Bill expires in September 2023. But given the size and implications of the programs, it’s already farm bill season for groups with a stake in the bill. The American Farm Bureau Federation, one of the major groups that represents a variety of agricultural producers, has a Farm Bill Task Force with representatives in every state. span> They will come together by the end of the year around a set of official recommendations. Other major agricultural groups have a similar process. But even as the groups work on their specific recommendations, they shared some initial priorities, including funding, crop insurance and a forward-looking vision for the next farm bill. Money, money, moneyThe farm bill includes both obligations and discretionary expenses. Congress can change discretionary spending in annual spending bills. But most farm bill programs are mandatory expenditures, including crop subsidies, farm bill retention programs, and some forms of crop insurance. For these programs, the Farm Bill will set the funding structure for the next five years. Given this structure, expense levels are always a huge debate in the Farm Bill. “Some of our priorities would definitely be to keep funding the last farm bills,” Scott VanderWal, vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, told FarmFest growers. VanderWal said he knew some bands would ask for more money, but it would likely be hard to get. The proposed Senate Budget Reconciliation Bill, in its section on climate change, also includes significant funding increases for farm bill conservation programs. But that’s not stopping the American Soybean Association, which wants to push for more money for nutrition programs like SNAP and crop subsidies that fall under “Title One” of the farm bill.“We really want to increase funding for the farm bill. We think now is a good time to ask for more funding, which will increase funding for the nutritional side and also for the Title One side,” said George Goblish, a representative of the board of directors of the American Soybean AssociationCatastrophe insuranceThe 2018 Farm Bill did not make major changes to food and farm programs. But one change he included was an extension of the crop insurance program, which gives farmers the option to purchase insurance against losses due to weather or market conditions. Crop insurance was once part of the agricultural safety net, but it now exceeds traditional agricultural subsidy programs in size and expense. Crop insurance is available for more than 120 crops and for farmers of all sizes and in all 50 states.Farmer groups say it is a top priority for their producers to preserve crop insurance programs. “Crop insurance is our best safety net, and we can go from there,” said Tom Haag, first vice president of the National Corn Growers Association. span> VanderWal of the Farm Bureau agreed that one of the main requests he has heard from their members is to preserve crop insurance or expand it to even more crops.For animal producers, representatives of the pig and beef industry said they were concerned about overseas animal diseases and wanted support in the event of a potential disaster if diseases were to spread in American animal populations. For example, the African swine virus has been identified in the Dominican Republic, the closest it has ever been.“The pork industry doesn’t have a lot of demands, but our main demands are for support for labs, vaccine banks and catastrophic loss insurance,” said Terry Wolters, outgoing chair of the National Pork Producers Council. . Don Schiefelbein of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association said his producers don’t want the government to interfere in their business, but need help with disasters like foot-and-mouth disease, a viral infection.“Where we need it (the government) is in a disaster type situation where we need a big brother to help us. If we look around the world, there are a lot of foreign disease risks,” Schiefelbein said.For the futureThe farm bill comes at a difficult time for U.S. growers, who are grappling with rising costs for fertilizers, fuel, seeds and chemicals, in part because of the war in Ukraine, tensions on the global supply system, inflation and bad weather. But Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union, said authors of farm bills must ensure they craft legislation that can support farmers no matter the circumstances. “One of the biggest mistakes that I think we all want to make sure we learn from is that we’re not writing a farm bill for today’s date, or today’s terms,” Larew said. noted flaws in past programs that assumed prices for some crops could remain high.“We don’t know yet what those challenges will be tomorrow — let’s make sure we have a farm bill that’s ready,” Larew said.