Numerous provisions of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s draft farm bill follow the American Farm Bureau Federation’s core principles for “rational, acceptable farm policy,” but there is room for adjustments to improve the legislation.
AFBF President Bob Stallman delivered that message to Senate Agriculture Committee leaders in a letter Monday following a meeting of the organization’s board of directors.
In the letter, AFBF urged the committee to approve the draft “as a vehicle to move the farm bill to the Senate floor in a timely manner.” While the letter said “the importance of completing a farm bill cannot be overstated,” it also said that AFBF would seek opportunities “to make adjustments and refinements to improve the legislation.”
The letter, sent to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), started by commending them for moving forward in a bipartisan fashion to write the 2012 farm bill.
The letter specifically outlined AFBF’s support for several points included in the Senate farm bill, including: the decision to “stand firm on utilizing the figure of $23 billion in savings suggested to the Super Committee last fall”; the fact that the Senate bill protects and strengthens the federal crop insurance program and does not reduce funding for the program; that programs are not based on cost of production; and that it includes “a commodity title that attempts to encourage producers to follow market signals rather than make planting decisions in anticipation of government payments.”
AFBF’s letter stated that while the draft legislation addresses many of its policy priorities, the organization continues to support a single program option for the commodity title that is extended to all crops and it has concerns about the need for improved “equity across all commodities.”
The letter also stated that AFBF will continue to work toward provisions in the bill for a financial safety net that includes a “catastrophic revenue loss program based on county level losses” with coverage at 80 percent of revenue levels.
“Catastrophic loss events are typically beyond any producer's control, and are events that would endanger the financial survivability of the farm,” Stallman said. “These events, in the past, have prompted enactment of ad hoc disaster programs. Having a catastrophic plan in place would protect farmers from these situations and extend program benefits only when they are needed, rather than potentially being a supplemental source of annual income.”
While AFBF will seek further refinements in the Senate farm bill, Stallman’s letter highlights a number of the bill’s provisions supported by the organization. Included among a larger list of those provisions were:
• Support for elimination of direct payments, countercyclical payments, the average crop revenue election program and the SURE program;
• Maintaining the current marketing loan program;
• Rejecting any provision linking conservation compliance with crop insurance;
• Eliminating the dairy price support program and the Milk Income Loss Contract program and using the funds associated with those programs to offer a voluntary gross margin insurance program for dairy producers;
• Mandating that USDA’s Risk Management Agency develop by 2013 a revenue insurance product that meets the needs of peanut producers; and
Achieving the vast majority of necessary reductions in conservation funding from land-retirement programs rather than working-land programs.
(At the Farm Bureau’s annual meeting delegates approved what was termed flexible farm policy. For details, see Farm Bureau delegates approve flexible farm policy).