Friday, June 8, 2012

AFBF Outlines Priorities, Concerns with Farm Bill Legislation

WASHINGTON – The American Farm Bureau Federation sent a letter to the Senate outlining the organization’s priorities in, along with its concerns about, the Senate Agriculture Committee’s proposed 2012 farm bill, S. 3240.  In a letter, AFBF President Bob Stallman said that with Farm Bureau’s suggested improvements, he believes S. 3240 moves toward the organization’s core principles for rational, acceptable farm policy and his organization would support passage of the bill. 
According to Stallman, Farm Bureau places a priority on several of the committee’s decisions, including using the $23 billion in savings suggested to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction last fall; protecting and strengthening the federal crop insurance program; developing a commodity title that attempts to encourage producers to follow market signals rather than make planting decisions in anticipation of government payments; and refraining from basing any program on cost of production.
“While the legislation addresses many Farm Bureau policy priorities, it is our sincere hope there will be additional opportunities to make adjustments and refinements to improve this legislation,” Stallman said.
Some of the areas Farm Bureau believes would benefit from additional policy work includes addressing the net effect of the Agriculture Risk Coverage Eligible Acres provisions to ensure a true “planted acres” approach and avoid recreating “base acres” issues that have raised equity and planting distortion concerns; and re-instituting current payment limitations and the Adjusted Gross Income provisions in current law.
“Fundamentally, Farm Bureau continues to support a single program option for the commodity title that extends to all crops,” wrote Stallman. “We believe the safety net should be comprised of a strong crop insurance program, with continuation of the marketing loan program and a catastrophic revenue loss program based on county level losses for each crop.
According to Farm Bureau, this approach can easily be tailored to provide a safety net that meets regional and commodity differences while also meeting the established savings target. Catastrophic loss events are typically beyond any producer’s control and endanger the financial survivability of the farm—the type of events that in the past have prompted enactment of ad hoc disaster programs.  Having a catastrophic loss program in place would protect farmers from these situations and extend benefits only when needed, rather than potentially being a supplemental source of annual income.
Stallman said that after recently analyzing numbers from the Congressional Budget Office, Farm Bureau now believes it is possible to provide support at the 80 percent revenue level of coverage for all program crops and five fruits and vegetables, instead of a more limited group of crops at a lower revenue level, as AFBF originally proposed.

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