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Fighting for a now-smaller farm bill?

DANIEL LOOKER 02/28/2013 @ 8:23pm Business Editor

Leaders of the American Soybean Association and National Corn Growers Association said Thursday at their annual meeting in Kissimmee, Florida that a top goal remains passage this year of a five-year farm bill. 

"In some respects, we're at the same place were were last year," Pam Johnson, an Iowa Farmer who is president of the National Corn Growers Association told reporters at the Commodity Classic, which had a record attendance of 6,080 this year. 

A year ago, farmers were optimistic about a good crop. Instead, a historic drought hit most of the Corn Belt and Great Plains. "We've had some demand destruction," Johnson said. 

A year ago, the Senate was moving ahead to pass a farm bill, with the House Agriculture Committee following by approving its own bipartisan version. "All of a sudden, we hit a brick wall," Johnson said.

Two key policies crucial for keeping strong demand for corn-based ethanol, the 2007 energy law's renewable fuel standard, and the EPA's approval of 15% ethanol blends (E15) are under attack, Johnson said. "We will not let these attacks stand," she said.

Both the Corn Growers and Soybean Association have had debates this week over whether to continue opposing linking conservation compliance to eligibility for crop insurance. 

Johnson said South Dakota delegates to the Corn Congress raised the issue suggesting that NCGA be neutral on conservation compliance.

Final policy won't be adopted until this Saturday, but change on that issue seems unlikely.

Johnson said that conservation compliance standards for commodity programs aren't consistent across the country. And after the drought of 2012, farmers have been reminded how important crop insurance is, she said.

The Soybean Association is also considering changes in the commodity programs it would support in a new farm bill.

An ASA resolution that will get a final vote on Saturday would back the supplemental coverage option, a USDA-funded county-based revenue coverage that would be sold by crop insurance companies to cover part of the shallow losses not protected by crop insurance. But the group may soften its support for Agricultural Risk Coverage program, which would replace ACRE with a less complicated revenue program available at either the county or farm level.

"ASA support the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program in the Senate version of the 2012 Farm Bill, but recognizes that the Title I (commodity program section) funding may be insufficient to cover the cost of ARC or another acceptable reven-based risk management program," says the resolution, which still hasn't gotten final approval from the delegates.

The same resolution also sats ASA is willing to consider backing a target price program, which rice and peanut farmers backed in 2012, if that program doesn't interfere with market signals for planting decisions. 

ASA vice president Ray Gaesser told Agriculture.com that the new policy, if adopted, is aimed at giving ASA more flexibility.

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