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Stronger Safety Net Needed, Says National Farmers Union

The government shutdown hobbled USDA in implementing the 2018 Farm Bill, but it did not change the National Farmers Union’s (NFU) belief that the safety net needs to be stronger. In a resolution, the NFU board called on the White House and Congress “to find solutions that will provide significant long-term solutions to strengthen the farm safety net,” such as diverting cropland to conservation uses. “Regardless of when and how existing trade disputes are resolved, it will take decades to overcome the self-inflicted damage to our markets.”

The farm bill modestly boosts marketing loan rates and provides the opportunity for higher PLC reference prices. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the 35-day shutdown that ran into late January would slow USDA somewhat. “I don’t expect it to be a month behind,” he says. 

Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said in a broadcast interview that if there is no progress on trade issues, including negotiation of new bilateral pacts, a new round of trade mitigation payments may be needed. 

For the chairmen of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, the top issues for this year are reauthorization of the CFTC, which stalled in 2017 in a tug-of-war over agency funding and regulatory powers, and an extension of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, which authorizes EPA to collect fees to maintain registration of pesticides. They are monitoring farm finances. “But we are in a very tough spot. So I hope we don’t get more tariffs and tariff retaliation,” says Senate Chairman Pat Roberts.

This article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an independent, nonprofit news organization producing investigative reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.

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