It’s clear the farm bill needs overhaul

December 24th, 2013 Judith Sutherland

Waiting is sometimes what farmers have had to learn to do best. Waiting for fields to dry. Waiting for rain. Waiting for heifers to calve. Waiting for a killing frost, driving moisture content down before going full-tilt in to harvest.

Waiting, now, for the House and the Senate to get back to work on the farm bill.

With the House and Senate now on the long holiday recess, there is no hope of passing a new farm bill until mid-January, if then. For our entire lifetime, problems within this bill have been brewing similar to an enormous volcano, in large part because the farm bill harkens back to the Truman administration.

Needs overhaul

With the House proposing $40 billion in cuts and the Senate proposing $4 billion in cuts, it appears we all have been waiting too long for the policy makers to realize something major needs to be changed with the entire structure of the farm bill.

An enormous glitch, which seems so obvious it almost goes without saying, is that policy set for farm subsidies and rural development projects is tied together with the massive food stamp program, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

It is the $80 billion per year food stamp program that has, in very large part, stalled the renewal of the nation’s farm bill.

A single young woman told me a friend urged her to sign up for food stamp assistance. She balked for awhile, knowing it would likely take many months and waiting in long lines to prove her need. Unable to find a full-time job, leaning on her parents for help, she managed to get by, taking on a second part-time job, watching her spending, eating very little.

One day, a married co-worker with children said she was finally being forced to sign up for SNAP after her husband lost his part-time job, so the two women went together.

“Oh my gosh, it was so easy. It was ridiculously easy. There is no doubt in my mind that is one huge program that needs overhauled,” Ally said.

More than ‘farm’ bill

The irony of this is that lack of passage of a farm bill could distort many food costs for all, though we will not see doubling milk prices in the stores as people feared, since the House voted Dec. 12 to extend the 2008 farm bill through January, which also suspends permanent price supports.

Eventually, though, lack of funding for production of corn and sugar beets could drive up many other food costs.

As farmers attempt to plan their spring planting, much remains up in the air.

Changes in eligibility and work requirements are two things that have been mentioned in discussions of the need for change within SNAP. There is no doubt serious changes are needed.

In a perfect world, no one would need assistance. People who are willing to work hard would be paid well enough to put food on the table, and supply and demand would balance the scales for family farmers, who wouldn’t have to compete against mega-corporate agribusiness.

We can dream, because dreaming is still free!

No farm bill in 2013, officials eye January for next action

December 17th, 2013 Chris Kick

WOOSTER, Ohio — The U.S. House of Representatives voted Dec. 12 to extend the 2008 farm bill through January, after the bipartisan conference committee failed to come up with an end-of-year deal on a new bill.

The House broke for its holiday recess Dec. 13 and the Senate will do the same in a matter of days. The bill has been sent to the Senate, but it is unclear what, if any action, may be taken.

The extension suspends “permanent price supports,” meaning there will be no doubling of the milk price in stores.

Washington media reports say that Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who is chairwoman of the Senate Ag Committee, is opposed to another extension. Instead, work is expected to continue  on the conference, when Congress returns in January.

What’s happening.

Meanwhile, farm policy experts are taking their best shots at understanding what’s going on, and how it might all end.

At the annual Ohio State University Ag Outlook and Policy Meeting Dec. 12 in Wooster, Ohio, OSU farm policy expert Carl Zulauf said there are three likely outcomes: The conference committee agrees on a new law; the committee fails to agree and the 2008 farm bill is extended one to two years, most likely with cuts to direct payments; or, the most unlikely outcome, the committee fails to agree and there is no farm bill, commodity programs would end and permanent law would be repealed.

Zulauf has traveled the state talking about the farm bill — mostly making sure people understand the debate and how the process works.

“There’s a lot of things that people misunderstand about conference,” he said.

The basics

First, the conference is not bound by previous bills passed by the House or Senate. The conferees can shape new policy, but it must pass by a majority of the Senate and a majority of House members.

While the process has been cumbersome, Zulauf said progress is being made. He expects an agreement mid-January.

Battle points

The holdup remains the battle over food stamp funding, and funding for farm safety nets.

The nutrition titles, which include food stamps, account for between 70 and 80 percent of the bill. The Senate seeks to cut about $4 billion in the new bill, while the House is going for nearly $40 billion.

It’s hard to say what amount of cuts the conference will agree upon, but Zulauf said “it’s got to be much closer to the Senate side than to the House side.”

The Senate and President Barack Obama have both said they will oppose major cuts to food stamps.

But an equally important issue, and possibly more so, is the battle over farm safety nets.

“I see the crop safety net as the real bottleneck to getting a bill done,” Zulauf said.

While the current bills seek to end direct payments, they would continue subsidies for crop insurance, and other programs that protect against loss.

Safety nets

The question of deciding what to protect, and how much, is philosophical, Zulauf said, and is hard to find compromise.

“Should the market decide, ultimately, and only what is produced, or do we have a responsibility to help crops that are seeing their market shares dramatically decline,” he asked. “These are deeply philosophical questions. And the problem is with philosophical questions is somebody wins and somebody loses. There is no middle ground and it is very hard to get creative compromises on philosophical questions.”

Currently, about 62 percent of farmers’ crop insurance premiums are subsidized.

Zulauf advised farmers to be sure they have enough coverage going forward, and to keep up with any changes to the program.

He said the last five years, crop insurance has generally covered the cost of production — but historically — that has not been the case.

Even at 85 percent coverage, he said farmers may not be insuring enough to cover their costs.

“Be very careful about assuming insurance will cover your cost of production,” he said.

Zulauf said most farmers have already made their planting decisions for next year. He said the probability of an extension, as opposed to a new bill, will become greater if the debate continues past mid-January.

Eleventh hour for farm bill negotiations

December 11th, 2013 Chris Kick

SALEM, Ohio — The 50-50 chance of Congress passing a farm bill this year is quickly losing ground, as lawmakers are once again about out of time.

The House is tentatively planning to break for the holidays beginning Dec. 13, meaning there could only be a day or two left to act.

As of Dec. 10 — the day Farm and Dairy went to print — House and Senate conferees were still not in agreement. There were reports of positive strides from both chambers, but no details.

The history

The conference committee, which began meeting Oct. 30, includes Ohio Democrat, Sen. Sherrod Brown, as well as Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. The committee is chaired by Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.

Lucas still sees an end-of-year agreement possible, according to Washington media, but is prepared for a January extension.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he would support a one-month extension of the 2008 farm bill, if necessary.

Blame game. Boehner spoke during a news conference Dec. 3, where he blamed Senate Democrats for stalling the bill.

“Chairman Lucas has made a number of good-faith efforts; we can’t get Senate Democrats to the point of saying ‘yes,’” he said.

But the Senate did say “yes” twice over the last two years, passing bipartisan five-year farm bills that were either voted down in the House, or not considered.

The 2008 farm bill was extended at the beginning of 2013, to run through Sept. 30, following a similar congressional battle at the end of 2012.

New terms

It’s difficult to say what the House now wants Senate Democrats to say “yes” to, because terms of negotiation are being kept confidential.

But cuts to food stamp funding and commodity title reforms have been the biggest issues of contention.

See also: U.S. Sen. Shrrod Brown spoke about the farm bill at the Ohio Farm Bureau meeting.

Key differences

The House bill calls for about $39 billion in cuts to food stamps over 10 years, compared to just $4 billion by the Senate.

The House and Senate also disagree over the safety net program for dairy farmers.

Both the House and Senate bill’s replace current dairy programs with a risk management program based on the margin difference between the price of milk and feed.

The difference is, the Senate contains a provision to control milk supply by encouraging supply reductions when margins are especially low.

Dairy perspective

The National Milk Producers Federation continues to support the Senate plan, which NMPF says would actually cost about $100 million less than the House plan, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

The CRS analysis put the 10-year cost of the Senate dairy program at $302 million above current programs, and the more-costly House language at $418 above the current baseline.

“Without the market stabilization program to both reduce the duration of low margin conditions, and reduce government outlays … the House plan would be a budget-buster — and one that we urge the conferees to reject,” said NMPF’s new president, Jim Mulhern, in a released statement.

Consumer prices?

Mulhern also discounted reports the Senate plan would cause the price of consumer dairy products to increase.

“The purpose of market stabilization is to keep farmers’ milk prices from staying too low, for too long,” Mulhern said. “Any suggestion that it will spike retail prices to abnormally high levels is a deceitful and deliberate misinterpretation of the studies done on the impact of the (two bills).”

Another point of contention is the Protect Interstate Commerce Act, or King amendment, named for Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. This amendment would prohibit “trade protectionism,” preventing a state from making laws that would ban agricultural products produced in another state, on the basis of how those products were produced.

The amendment is in response to states like California, which have recently passed laws that would ban farm products from being sold in their state, if they don’t meet the state’s standard for production.

States could still keep and set new standards within their own boundaries, but could not impose those standards on farmers outside their state.

“Any state, including California, is free to regulate and even over-regulate their producers, but not to regulate the other 49 states,” King said during farm bill conference.

Animal rights organizations, on the other hand, oppose the King amendment because they say it goes against the humane farming movement.

What happens

Should the conferees fail to reach an agreement by year’s end, it could potentially cause the implementation of a 1940s pricing policy known as “permanent agricultural law,” which would cause a doubling of government subsidies for dairy products, and a major distortion in the consumer market.

Estimates are that milk alone would jump to $7 a gallon, and there is fear that such high prices would cause farmers to sell to the government. The price for other foods, including beef, would soon be affected as well.

“The inability to get a farm bill in place will touch every household in the U.S., starting with ramping up the price of our milk to eventually increasing the sticker prices on a variety of foods,” said Kathryn Boor, dean of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Boor’s comments were made in a Dec. 4 news release, in which she reiterated the thought on a lot of people’s minds.

“It’s time to put politics behind us and focus on the things that matter: Improving the quality of life for our citizens,” she said.

Popular farm bill conservation program seeks producer participation

December 10th, 2013 Other News

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is opening the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) for new enrollments for federal fiscal year 2014. Starting today through Jan. 17, 2014, producers interested in participating in the program can submit applications to NRCS.

“Through the Conservation Stewardship Program, farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners are going the extra mile to conserve our nation’s resources,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. “Through their conservation actions, they are ensuring that their operations are more productive and sustainable over the long run.”

Conservation program

The CSP is an important farm bill conservation program that helps established conservation stewards with taking their level of natural resource management to the next level to improve both their agricultural production and provide valuable conservation benefits such as cleaner and more abundant water, as well as healthier soils and better wildlife habitat.

Weller said today’s announcement is another example of USDA’s comprehensive focus on promoting environmental conservation and strengthening the rural economy, and it is a reminder that a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is pivotal to continue these efforts. CSP is now in its fifth year and so far, NRCS has partnered with producers to enroll more than 59 million acres across the nation.

Higher performance

The program emphasizes conservation performance — producers earn higher payments for higher performance. In CSP, producers install conservation enhancements to make positive changes in soil quality, soil erosion, water quality, water quantity, air quality, plant resources, animal resources and energy.

Some popular enhancements used by farmers and ranchers include:
• Using new nozzles that reduce the drift of pesticides, lowering input costs and making sure pesticides are used where they are most needed;
• Modifying water facilities to prevent bats and bird species from being trapped;
• Burning patches of land, mimicking prairie fires to enhance wildlife habitat; and
• Rotating feeding areas and monitoring key grazing areas to improve grazing management. Eligible landowners and operators in all states and territories can enroll in CSP through Jan. 17 to be eligible during the 2014 federal fiscal year.

Ranking periods

While local NRCS offices accept CSP applications year round, NRCS evaluates applications during announced ranking periods. To be eligible for this year’s enrollment, producers must have their applications submitted to NRCS by the closing date. A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements and payment types.

Learn more about CSP by visiting the NRCS website or a local NRCS field office.

A farm bill is still possible in 2013

December 6th, 2013 Kristy Foster Seachrist

COLUMBUS — A farm bill may still be possible before 2013 is over. At least that’s what U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown thinks.


Brown spoke at the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s 95th annual meeting Dec. 5 and his top concern is getting a farm bill passed. Brown said he had just gotten off the phone with U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairman of the senate agriculture committee, and found out that the farm bill is closer to becoming a reality in 2013 than it was last week.

“I was concerned it wouldn’t pass a week ago,” said Brown.

Session opens up

Brown said he expects the farm bill to be discussed when the Senate goes back into session Dec. 9 and has confidence  it will be passed in 2013.

“We want to get it done in December,” said Brown. “We’re fairly close to an agreement.”

The Senate passed a version overwhelmingly bipartisan in 2012 and a version this fall. Brown said the question is whether or not House members will get on board. He said many farm groups support the Senate version.

Crop insurance

One issue in the farm bill will be crop insurance. Brown said he believes a safety net is needed for all commodities and shouldn’t be limited to corn and soybeans, and that will be addressed in the farm bill.
Brown said the Senate’s version will have to deal with the market rather than the farm program.


Another area they will be looking at is the nutrition area (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), which is the bulk of the cost for the farm bill. He said the Senate version would handle nutrition in a way that deals with fraud issues, but provides for the disabled, elderly, low income, and those families making $9-10 an hour. Brown was unable to give a price tag for the food stamp portion of the bill.

He emphasized the Senate does not want to extend the current version of the farm bill especially for the dairy industry.

Brown said the farm bill, especially the Title I portion of the bill, has a lot of agreement on conservation enforcement, energy issues, general conservation and rural development.

He added he is confident if the farm bill gets to both floors, it will get passed.

Obama supportive

Brown said he talked with U.S. President Barack Obama and he wants the farm bill passed. He said the farm bill is good for economy and the prosperity of Ohio.

“He (Obama) looks at it as a jobs bill,” said Brown.

Brown reminded reporters that one in seven jobs in Ohio are tied to ag.

“Passing a good farm bill is good for the economy,” said Brown

He said Obama knows that when farmers do well, the whole economy is going to do well.

Farm bill by 2014? Maybe … maybe not

November 22nd, 2013 Chris Kick

SALEM, Ohio — Another year is about to end, and, like the past two years, the future of a new farm bill is unclear.

Congressional conferees were unable to reach an agreement before the start of their Thanksgiving recess, which began Nov. 21 for the House, and Nov. 22 in the Senate.

The conferees — 41 members — 29 House conferees and 12 from the Senate — first met to conference the House and Senate versions of the bill Oct. 30.

There was a sense of urgency throughout that meeting, in which several congressional leaders said their own credibility in Washington depends on getting a bill done.

When Congress returns in December, they’ll have less than two weeks to uphold their credibility, if they intend to get the bill passed into law by the end of the year. The House is scheduled to break Dec. 13.

The process

For the bill to move out of conference, a majority of the House and Senate conferees must agree on the provisions, before the bill can be introduced on the Senate or House floor.

Failure to pass a farm bill by the end of the year would mean more uncertainty for farmers and rural America, and for the nation’s 47 million who receive food stamps.

What’s at stake

In a report released Nov. 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and White House staff warned that food prices could also skyrocket as certain ag laws would revert back to 1940s policy, doubling the price of milk and affecting other foods.

In a separate report published Nov. 14, Ohio State University Farm Policy Expert Carl Zulauf and Jonathan Coppess, clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, gave a detailed summary of what might happen.

Battle points

It appears the two biggest issues of controversy are cuts to food stamps, and farm safety nets — for crop and livestock farming. The House bill calls for about $39 billion in cuts to food stamps over 10 years, compared to just $4 billion by the Senate.

But both nutrition and farm safety nets are big issues.

“It is easy to point to nutrition programs as the likely reason that a new farm bill will not occur,” the authors wrote. “However, we think the farm safety net issues are just as, and maybe more divisive.”

Dairy programs

A big concern is what type of risk management to offer dairy farmers. Both the House and Senate bill’s replace current dairy programs with a risk management program based on the margin difference between the price of milk and feed.

The difference is, the Senate contains a provision to control milk supply by encouraging supply reductions when margins are especially low.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has openly criticized the Senate plan, known as the Dairy Security Act — as a form of supply management. The House amended its version of the farm bill to include provisions of the Dairy Freedom Act — which provides margin protection but does not include supply management.

According to the report filed by Zulauf and Coppess, the two bills also differ on the structure of the margin program subsidy by herd size, with the House bill being more favorable to small farms than the Senate bill. This difference is part of a larger issue concerning how much should government subsidize risk programs for large farms.

Read Zulauf’s full policy brief.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is a Democratic conferee from Ohio, said he supports the Senate version of dairy support. He said the dairy policy is one of the most controversial parts of the bill, and it may take a compromise in the end.

He spoke to reporters Nov. 20 during a press call with Jack Fisher, executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, the executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

Supporting food stamps

Their main topic was food stamps, which Brown said is an essential part of the farm bill.

“I won’t support a bill that goes after those in need and down on their luck,” he said.

Currently, one out of six Americans, or 47 million, receives food stamps.

“There is no debating that food stamp usage is at an all-time high,” said Hamler-Fugitt. “We are witnessing an unprecedented increase of hunger in Ohio.”

She said cuts to SNAP that went into effect Nov. 1 have already been deeply felt.

Fisher said the nation needs a safe, secure, adequate and abundant food supply. He also called for market-based programs.

“We want market based commodity programs,” he said. “We want to grow and plant food based on what consumers want, not what the government is going to pay.”

The options

In their report on the conference, Zulauf and Coppess outline three most likely paths the bill will take: First, the conference committee could reach an agreement and the bill is enacted into law. Secondly, the committee does not reach an agreement, and the expired 2008 farm bill is once again extended.

Third, the committee does not reach an agreement and farm commodity support programs come to an end. The farm safety net would become the insurance program, meaning multiple-year losses would not be covered by the farm safety net.

The authors say the first two options appear most likely. They say there is equal probability conferees will get a bill done, as there is that they will not, and an extension would then be made.

There will be a farm bill … eventually

November 7th, 2013 Normand St-Pierre

Fiscal cliff … government shutdown … farm bill. Ooops, sorry, the farm bill hasn’t happened yet. But it will … eventually!

You know, after everything that has happened in Washington lately, I’m not sure that we really want a farm bill. Be careful for what you wish!

Remember that most representatives and senators who will be voting on the final version of the bill are pretty much clueless about farming in general, and dairying in particular. I am worried that the inevitable compromise bill reached between the House and the Senate will look like a Frankenstein patchwork of semi-idiotic ideas.

Favorable markets

Meanwhile, the markets are currently moving favorably for dairymen. It is always difficult at best to forecast prices more than a couple of months ahead, but judging on current Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) cash and futures prices, dairymen should be enjoying a pleasant pre-Christmas season.

Currently, nonfat dry milk stands at a multi-year high on the CME, trading above $1.80/pound. After a relatively steady fall in price throughout late summer and early fall, butter closed above $1,50/pound last week, gaining more than 5 cents/pound.

Meanwhile, cheddar blocks closed above $1.90/pound for the first time in more than six months. Hopefully, this rise in price will last a bit longer than the one we experienced last May, which lasted only four days above $1.90/pound.

Meanwhile, dry whey prices have been holding steady around 56 cents/pond. These prices explain the encouraging $18.22/cwt. Class III price that was just announced for October.

Both the Class III and Class IV futures for the next few months are very good — much higher than what was anticipated just a few months ago.

Other side

Of course, milk prices don’t mean a thing unless one looks at what it costs to produce milk. Because feed costs represent the largest cash costs on a typical dairy, we now have a nearly fanatic trance in regards to feed costs.

Although the markets of byproduct feeds do not operate in perfect harmony with the corn and soybean markets, they nevertheless are heavily influenced by them.

Corn prices

Last July, in spite of a temporary rise in the December corn futures, I stuck my neck out and predicted corn prices at $4/bushel in December. I made this forecast because I just don’t have much faith in preliminary U.S. Department of Agriculture reports.

However, I have immense faith in the productivity of American farmers; and they’re about to prove me right again. Last week, December corn futures closed at $4.27/bushel, down 13 cents/bushel for the week.

When all is suddenly done, the national corn crop should be in the neighborhood of 14.2 billion bushels this year. That’s a lot of corn! This drop in corn price is coupled with soybean meal November futures now trading under $400/ton.

These prices are indicative of a substantial reduction in feed costs and, thus, a significant improvement in milk margins. I know that this will be a temporary relief on most Ohio dairy farms.

Enjoy the season

Soon, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving — my favorite American holiday. You see, I was raised in Canada where Thanksgiving occurs in October and has nothing to do with the Pilgrims celebrating a successful harvest.

In fact, it’s really not a big holiday up there. I have learned to enjoy very much the American spirit surrounding Thanksgiving. This year, as usual, I will be eating far more turkey, mash potatoes, sweet potatoes and stuffing than I should.

Surrounded by my family and close friends, we will make sure to take a long moment to thank the American farmers for the bountiful and wholesome food they provide us from their work.Make sure that you spend time with your family even when there are cows to be milked … like every day.

Sense of urgency as farm bill conference begins

November 1st, 2013 Chris Kick

SALEM, Ohio — More than a year after the 2008 farm bill expired, a group of bipartisan House and Senate members finally sat down at the same table Oct. 30, to begin the process of conferencing a new five-year farm bill.

Members spent most of the opening session introducing themselves and praising each other for the opportunity to work across party lines for the good of farmers and the American people. And that’s the challenge at hand, as farmers and consumers demand action.

“It took us years to get here, but we are here,” said Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who is chairman of the conference. “We can do it, we have to do it,” he said, adding, “let’s not take years to get it done.”

The sense of urgency was conveyed by most of the conferees, with some going as far as to say their own credibility in Washington depends on getting the farm bill done by year’s end.

Farm and Dairy watched the conference live via C-SPAN. Watch the full video here.

“We’re hopefully at the beginning of the end of this process,” said Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn. “This has been going on too long.”

Many twists

The “process” has taken some confusing twists and turns, but basically, the 2008 farm bill was set to expire in October, 2012. The Senate passed a new farm bill in June, 2012 while the House failed to put their farm bill to a vote.

After the 2008 farm bill expired, and faced with price programs that could have reverted back to the 1940s, Congress approved a last-minute extension of the 2008 farm bill in the last days of 2012, to run through October of 2013.

The Senate passed its second full five-year farm bill in June of 2013, while the House farm bill failed later the same month. In July, the House took an unprecedented move and voted to split the farm bill from the nutrition title, ultimately approving farm and food bills in separate pieces.

And now, the conference committee is charged with one giant task: Bring it altogether.

Something that works

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he’s looking for “tangible and workable solutions,” for farmers as well as the hungry.

Brown issued a joint statement with U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, prior to the conference, in which the two shared bipartisan views on risk management and market fundamentals.

“We believe the farm bill conference must produce a bill that provides common sense, market-based resources that ensure economic stability for farmers and savings for taxpayers,” Gibbs and Brown both wrote.

Brown said he’s been across the state listening to farmers, and that he’s tried to make sure the farm bill reflects what they want.
For instance, many have told him they don’t want direct payments, and in the new bill, those are gone. The new bill also places more emphasis on farmers buying crop insurance and making it the primary crop protection program.

Hurdles to climb

But while there is much optimism on the committee, there are some tall hurdles. A big issue is how much to cut from food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The House legislation could cut as much as $40 billion, and Senate Democrats say that’s too much.

Brown said the House’s cuts to SNAP would harm everyone, including children, working parents, the disabled and veterans.

“Our farmers feed the world,” he said. “They are proud to do that, but the House is seeking to break a decades old bond between farmers and those Americans who are going hungry.

Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Cleveland, said she’s “very concerned” about the proposed cuts to SNAP.

“We do not turn our backs on farmers seeking help with crop insurance, and we certainly should
not turn our backs on hungry Americans,” she said.

Other issues include language related to the Dairy Security Act — which would create a margin protection program and market stabilization program designed to help reduce milk price volatility. Although voluntary, some say the program amounts to supply management and fear it would hinder growth.

Interstate commerce

Additional issues include eligibility requirements for crop insurance and disaster assistance, and the Protect Interstate Commerce Act, an amendment by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that would prevent states from enacting laws that limit what they sell, based on how those goods were raised or grown in other states.

The issue stems from new animal-rights laws enacted in California, that established a new standard of how egg-laying hens in that state must be raised.

King said the U.S. constitution prohibits “trade protectionism” between states, and he intends to defend that position.

“The bottom line of it is that no state should be allowed to regulate the production in other states,” he said. “Any state, including California, is free to regulate and even over-regulate their producers, but not to regulate the other 49 states.”

(Our coverage of the farm bill conference will continue, as the conference itself continues)

Farm bill conservation programs and the continuing resolution

October 31st, 2013 Other News

COLUMBUS — Expiration of the farm bill and the recently passed Continuing Resolution allows the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to offer some farm bill conservation programs, but not all, according to Dot Harris, Ohio’s Assistant State Conservationist for Programs.

In addition, the federal government shutdown suspended NRCS work on existing conservation program contracts, delaying certification of practices installed during that time frame. Conservation program contract holders that installed practices during the government shutdown should notify their local NRCS field office so NRCS can certify the practices as completed and process payments for those practices.


The continuing resolution provides funding for the Environmental Incentives Program. In Ohio, NRCS will review and rank eligible EQIP applications submitted by Nov. 15 for funding. If additional EQIP funding is available, NRCS may offer additional application periods. Eligible agricultural producers can apply for EQIP anytime.


The continuing resolution provides funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program. Like EQIP, any eligible agricultural producer can apply for CSP anytime. In Ohio, NRCS has not yet announced an application selection date this year.


The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) The continuing resolution provides funding for the Farm and Ranch Lands

Protection Program

In Ohio, NRCS will announce the deadline for cooperating entities to submit applications this year.
Expired conservation programs. Several conservation program authorities lapsed when the farm bill expired. These include the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grasslands Reserve Program, Healthy Forest Reserve Program, and the Conservation Reserve Program. NRCS cannot accept new applications for these programs at this time. NRCS will continue to assist with agreements from prior years to complete easement closings and restoration activities and to ensure conservation practice implementation.

Farm bill conference committee to hold first public meeting

October 23rd, 2013 Other News

WASHINGTON — The first public meeting for the 2013 farm bill conference committee will be held Oct. 30 at 1 p.m. ET in Room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building (the Ways and Means Committee Room).

The agenda for the meeting of conferees will include opening statements and discussion of H.R. 2642.

The Senate conferees include:


  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
  • Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
  • Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
  • Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)


  • Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee
  • Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)
  • Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
  • Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)
  • Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)

The House conferees include:


House Committee on Agriculture conferees:

  • Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-OK), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee
  • Rep. Steve King (R-IA)
  • Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX)
  • Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL)
  • Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-TX)
  • Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA)
  • Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA)
  • Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR)
  • Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL)
  • Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD)
  • Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA)
  • Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL)

Leadership conferee:

  • Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL)

House Foreign Affairs Committee conferees:

  • Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman
  • Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA)

House Ways & Means Committee conferees:

  • Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Chairman
  • Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX)


House Committee on Agriculture conferees:

  • Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Ranking Member of House Agriculture Committee
  • Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC)
  • Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA)
  • Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN)
  • Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR)
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)
  • Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA)
  • Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-CA)
  • Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX)

Leadership conferee:

  • Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)

House Foreign Affairs Committee conferee:

  • Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member

House Ways & Means Committee conferee:

  • Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), Ranking Member