Friday, April 5, 2013

President's Editorial

Farm Bill Past Due
 by Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President

The 2008 Farm Bill was recently extended until September 2013. In spite of urging Congress to act on this important legislation last year, they kicked the can down the road, which is becoming an all too regular occurrence in our nation’s capital.
It is vital that Congress complete a new five-year farm bill this year, and we urge Farm Bureau members to let their congressmen know how important this is. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, budget restrictions dictate that the next farm bill will have fewer resources than in the past. Farm policy must help protect a stable food supply by ensuring responsible farm businesses stay in business during difficult times.
Last year, there was broad support for a bill passed by the full Senate and the House Agriculture Committee. The estimates made by the Congressional Budget Office in mid-March for the cost of the bill and how much money is cut from agricultural spending in a potential sequestration bill, FY2014 appropriations, the continuing resolution and debt ceiling negotiations will be a large determinant in how similar bills introduced in 2013 look in comparison to those passed last year.
Farm Bureau will focus on:
-        Limiting the reductions in cuts to the commodity, conservation and crop insurance titles; Protecting and strengthening the federal crop insurance program;
-        Refraining from basing any programs on cost of production;
-        Ensuring equity across all commodities;
-        Ensuring that programs will not cause planting decisions to be based on farm program benefits that accrue more beneficially to a particular crop.;
-         Maintaining the marketing loan program;
-        Opposing the linkage of conservation compliance with crop insurance;
-        Opposing means testing and further payment limits;
-        Eliminating the dairy price support program and the Milk Income Loss Contract program, and use the funds associated with those programs to offer a voluntary gross margin insurance program for dairy producers;
-        Maintaining the current sugar program;
-        Including the Supplemental Coverage Option, whereby program crop producers, as well as producers of specialty crops, could purchase a county level revenue policy on top of their individual crop insurance coverage to cover all or part of a producer’s deductible portion of their individual insurance policy;
-        Restoring the critical, non-program crop, disaster programs, such as the Livestock Indemnity Program, Livestock Forage Program and the Tree Assistance Program, to provide those producers with some basic risk management tools to help address catastrophic losses and make those programs retroactive;
-        Achieving the vast majority of necessary reductions in conservation funding from the land retirement programs rather than working land programs;
-        Consolidating conservation provisions and focusing on administrative savings and simplicity in the remaining programs; and
-        Expanding the State Block Grants for Specialty Crops program.
Serious consideration of the new bill is expected in April.
Farm policy should provide strong and effective safety net/risk management programs that do not guarantee a profit but, instead, protect producers from catastrophic occurrences while minimizing the potential for farm programs affecting production decisions. It should be compliant with World Trade Organization agreements.
Farm Bureau supports a program that reduces complexity while allowing producers increased flexibility to plant in response to market demand.
Farm Bureau supports a safety net that helps producers deal with catastrophic revenue losses and allows farmers to purchase insurance products to further protect individual risk. The program should be delivered by private crop insurance companies. If a catastrophic risk program is not achievable, we support producers being allowed a choice of program options.

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