Farm groups across the country are weighing in on the farm bill, which gained U.S. Senate approval on Tuesday. Though most are pleased with the package and others note shortcomings, all want to see the new legislation in place as soon as possible.
Passage in the U.S. House is expected to follow later this week.
“Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill cannot come soon enough,” Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union president, said.
Farmers and ranchers need the certainty of the farm bill safety net to continue to weather the worst farm economy decline in more than 30 years, he said.
“We also need the bill to continue the sustainability gains and emergence of new markets for farmers that have been supported by farm bill programs,” he said.
The American Farm Bureau Federation’s board of directors on Tuesday voted unanimously to endorse final approval of the bill.
“Farm and ranch families in particular will find a good degree of risk-management support they need to help them weather the prolonged downturn in the agricultural economy that many of us are facing,” Zippy Duvall, AFBF president, said.
One of the biggest priorities for farm groups was protecting crop insurance, and the farm bill does no harm to crop insurance, a congressional aide said in a conference call with the media on Monday.
The bipartisan package was applauded by the American Association of Crop Insurers, Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, Crop Insurance Professionals Association, Independent Agents and Brokers of America, National Association of Professional Insurance Agents and National Crop Insurance Services.
“The 2018 Farm Bill maintains a strong crop insurance system because lawmakers know that agriculture’s top risk-management tool would be needed during these difficult times,” the groups said in a joint statement.
The bill will also allow growers of numerous crops to choose between the Agricultural Risk Coverage program and the Price Loss Coverage program annually beginning in 2021 on a farm-by-farm and crop-by-crop basis.
It also allows farmers to update their program yields and reference prices and increases marketing assistance loan rates.
The American Soybean Association applauds the improvements in the Title I support programs, Davie Stephenson, ASA president said.
The ability to choose between ARC and PLC will allow farmers to respond to increased volatility in overseas markets and prices, and the increase in loan rates will benefit farmers who need to access low-interest financing, he said.
Livestock producers are particularly pleased the bill includes mandatory funding for animal disease prevention and preparedness, including a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank.
“This is a huge win for the livestock industry,” Jim Heimerl, National Pork Producers Council president, said.
“The ability to respond to foreign animal disease emergencies is critical to safeguarding the well-being of our animals, our economy and the safety of our food supply,” he said.
Dairy farmers are grateful the bill raises coverage levels in the renamed Margin Protection Program and allows producers of all sizes to access lower premium rates on the first 5 million pounds of milk.
The bill also allows producers to participate in the margin coverage program and Livestock Gross Margin insurance program.
“Timely reauthorization of the farm bill will provide effective, needed risk-management tools to dairy producers across the country as we enter yet another year of uncertainty,” Jim Mulhern, National Milk Producers Federation president and CEO, said.
Funding in the bill for trade promotion, conservation and rural development is receiving broad support across farm groups.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is also applauding permanent funding for programs that support beginning and disadvantaged farmers, local and regional food production and organic research.
But the bill also contains serious shortcomings, failing to address some of the most significant challenges facing agriculture and rural communities — consolidation, dwindling rural populations and resources and climate change, the coalition said in a press release.
It will ultimately strip billions in conservation funding and doesn’t address needed reforms to crop insurance and commodity subsidies, the coalition stated.