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Kansas Farmers Give Earful To Farm Bill Designers

Panelists lay it on thick for crop insurance support

The ice on the 2018 Farm Bill construction plans has been broken, with all interested parties getting in on the action.

On Thursday, the U.S. Ag Senate Committee held its first hearing on the next Farm Bill at Chairman Republican Pat Roberts’ alma mater of Kansas State University. Debbie Stabenow, Democratic Senator (Michigan) and Ranking Member of the Ag Senate Committee also heard two separate panel members made up of agribusiness leaders and farmers express their ideas for the next farm bill.

In the 2014 farm bill, crop insurance  emerged as the lynchpin of the farm safety net. According to this week’s hearing in the Plains state,  producers and agribusiness leaders still are relying on the lawmakers to include a robust crop insurance plan in the new farm bill.

Lucas Heinen, president of the Kansas Soybean Association, sees the drop in the farm economy by way of lower commodities prices highlights the need for a robust risk management framework in the farm bill. The Kansas farmer wants to see consideration given to adequate funding of farm bill programs such as crop insurance

“I understand that the conventional view in Washington is that the cost of farm programs and other parts of the farm bill will need to be reduced again, just as they were in the 2014 farm bill. This is not acceptable to producers,” said Heinen.

Heinen focused on four areas that soybean growers would like to see strengthened in the farm bill negotiations. “A strengthening of crop insurance and a continuation of the Agriculture Revenue Coverage option decoupled from planted acreage and with a shift to the use of yield data from USDA’s Risk Management Agency, as well as support for current conservation programs, including EQIP and the Conservation Stewardship Program, agricultural research, and Energy Title programs focused on biodiesel and biobased products Heinen says.”

Kenneth Wood, a Kansas wheat grower, agreed that crop insurance has to be a major focus of the construction of a new farm bill.

“Crop insurance is the most important element of a farm safety net. It doesn’t guarantee a good year, but another year.’

Wood adds, “Farmers and banker alike need to know what the worst case scenario is and the net of crop insurance helps us to accomplish that.”

Heinen also underscored ASA’s commitment to increased funding for the development of export markets in the bill. “We strongly support doubling mandatory funding for the Foreign Market Development program and the Market Access Program to spur promotion of U.S. agricultural exports,” he said. “Funding for these programs has been frozen for over ten years while our foreign competitors are massively outspending us on market promotion.”

Noting that Kansas is the eigth largest state for U.S. agriculture exports, panelists stressed the need for a farm bill to increase demand for wheat products.

“Increasing access to international markets and beefing up current trade policies helps our checkoff dollars become more effective,” Kent Moore, Kansas corn grower says. “To help with exports of corn and dried distillers grains, we would like to see an increase for the market access program (MAP) and foreign market development program (FMD),” Moore says.

Other topics floating to the top of the farm bill hearing included concerns over regulations on farm chemicals, animal housing and water measures.

Tom Lahey, a Kansas cotton grower, put a plug in for more safety nets for his industry.

“First off, Title-1 policy is needed for cotton growers, much like it is for corn and soybean farmers,” Lahey says. The crop insurance programs have worked for other commodities, but as a cotton farmer I remain exposed to lower markets.”

The Kansas constituency sent the message loud and clear that an effective farm bill is needed now more than ever.

“The hurt in farm country is real,” Congressman Rodney Marshall, a Kansas-native attending the hearing. “Kansas net farm incomes dropped to less than $6,000 last year.”
Before moving the hearings onto the state of Michigan, Chairman Roberts admitted that passing a new farm bill will not be easy. “With a national debt at $19.0 trillion, lawmakers are looking for the most effective ways to spend money and manage budgets,” Senator Roberts says. “The government and farmers need to become more efficient.”

Roberts added, “We do need strong, bilateral trade agreements, quickly.”

At one point in the hearing, the discussion sounded like alphabet soup, with numerous acronyms used to refer to the farm bill’s producer programs.

One panel member even made the lawmakers aware that many citizens believe that folks in Washington, D.C. talk a different language.

But, if you are going to talk, defend, and advocate for your favorite farm bill program, knowing what each acronym stands for is very important. Just beware, a scorecard is nearly needed to keep up with the shortened references for these programs. See the extensive list of acronyms at the bottom of this story.

Perhaps the most popular benefit to farmers in the farm bill, that by the way doesn’t have an acronym, is the crop insurance coverage.

Here are some of the acronyms used in this first farm bill hearing. It really is a grocery list:

  • MPP= Margin Protection Program for Dairy producers.
  • Title 1= Under Title I of the 2014 Farm Bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) operated two new crop commodity programs—Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC)—along with the Marketing Assistance Loan Program, (MALP) which continued almost unchanged.
  • RMA= Risk Management Agency, the division of the USDA that implements the farm bill.
  • EQIP= Environmental Quality Incentives Program, a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to plan and implement conservation practices.
  • APH= Average Production History is used to determine crop insurance coverage.
  • MAP= Market Access Program. USDA partners with U.S. agricultural trade associations, cooperatives, state regional trade groups and small businesses to share the costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities that help build commercial export markets for U.S. agricultural products and commodities.
  • FMD= Foreign Market Development. A public-private partnership program used to help domestic industries build markets abroad for American products.
  • WOTUS= Waters of the United States
  • CSP= Conservation Stewardship Program helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems.
  • CRP= Conservation Reserve Program

 

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