Grain News

NGFA's President Randy Gordon Addresses Farm Bill Update

Date Posted: November 27, 2013

National Grain & Feed Association President Randy Gordon discusses the Congressional Outlook (interview conducted in mid-November).

What’s the latest on the farm bill? And on what policy outcomes is the NGFA most focused?

The four main principals – House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and their staffs continue to meet privately to see if they can reconcile the considerable differences between the House- and Senate-passed bills.

Their goal is to reach agreement by mid-December, so that a bill potentially can be passed before the end of the year – to avoid triggering the so-called dairy cliff that would dramatically escalate milk prices.

NGFA has three main priorities in our continuing discussions with the House-Senate conferees. First is to decouple farm program income supports from actual planted acres.

As it now stands, both the revenue-assurance provisions in the Senate-passed bill and the target price provisions in the House-passed bill would link producer income support payments to whether they planted a specific crop and on the specific number of acres planted.

That’s considered to be a trade-distorting subsidy by the World Trade Organization, which could expose U.S. agriculture and other U.S. businesses to trade retaliation.

NGFA also is concerned that target price levels for some commodities are at such high levels – and would be frozen for the five-year life of the bill – that it could risk distorting producer planting decisions, particularly if those payments are not decoupled from actual production.

A second major NGFA focus is to seek further reforms of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

On CRP, we favor the House-passed farm bill, which would reduce the mandated CRP cap from the current 32 million acres to 24 million acres, compared to the 25-million-acre cap in the Senate bill.

In addition, the House bill would provide a one-time opportunity to remove productive, sustainable farmland from the CRP without penalty or interest payments that currently are so high they discourage producers and landowners from doing so.

Third, the NGFA supports maintaining a strong but cost-effective federal crop insurance program as the foundation of U.S. farm program to protect the producers from yield and revenue losses.

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