Negotiators within the U.S. legislature on Monday released a compromise version of the Senate and House Farm Bills, an important piece of legislation to the country’s agricultural industries.Posted 1/31/14
By BRYCE MARTIN
The Senate-House version of the Farm Bill makes it a priority for enhanced crop insurance, integral for state farmers. It includes a new Supplemental Coverage Option and provides new Agriculture Risk Coverage to help producers through years of repetitive losses. The new Farm Bill also will provide assistance to livestock producers hit by Atlas blizzard in October. It also continues the sugar program and saves $24 billion to help reduce the nation’s deficit and debt.
As a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp helped the initiative to pass the bipartisan Farm Bill through the Senate.
“After serious negotiations, Republicans and Democrats have forged a compromise that moves us closer to getting a long-term Farm Bill signed into law,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “I’m confident that this Farm Bill strikes the right balance to make sure a strong safety net will be provided to North Dakota’s diverse agricultural system, which leads the nation in the production of over 13 different commodities.”
Sen. John Hoeven said that he and his colleagues on the House-Senate farm bill conference committee approved the farm bill conference report after arriving at a bipartisan agreement on a new five-year farm bill.
Hoeven said the measure would now go to each chamber for a final vote.
“Passing a strong, long-term farm bill is a top priority for us, so that our producers will have the confidence and tools they need to run their operations,” Hoeven said in a statement.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE FARM BILL COMPROMISE
-Reauthorize livestock disaster programs – Ranchers who experienced losses due to natural disasters will be able to recoup portions of their losses, backdated when the programs initially expired in October 2011.
-Provide option for farm-level coverage in farm program – Western states with large counties are not well served by county-level programs, because serious hardship for producers can be overlooked when losses are determined on a county-wide basis. For this reason, it is important that farmers have the opportunity to choose a farm level program that more effectively targets support where needed.
-Support for farmers experiencing wet seasons – One of the greatest risks facing North Dakota growers is wet conditions that prevent growers from planting their crops. For the commodity title to function as a risk mitigation tool that serves the needs of all regions of the country, it is important that any update to production history ensures that acres prevented from planting are counted for participation in the farm program.
-Authorize buyout program for flooded Devils Lake farmers – Farmers in the Devils Lake Basin have seen thousands of formerly productive acres lost due to the expansion of Devils Lake. The terminal lakes buyout program, for expanding lakes, which is authorized for the first time by the Farm Bill, will create a federal-state partnership program that may be used to compensate farmers for a portion of their losses.
-Prevent the farm program that does not influencing planting decisions – Coupling planted acres with target prices may lead to incentives for growers to make planting decisions based on the payouts offered by a farm program. Nearly all of the North Dakota commodity groups have stressed the importance of decoupling planted acres from the program in order to avoid planting distortions. This is due to the fact that North Dakota manages a delicate balance, growing at times over 20 different commodities in the state and leading the nation in the production of 13 different commodities.
-Authorize water retention program to address flooding in the Red River Valley – Senator Heitkamp fought to make sure targeted support will be available for multi-state, critical conservation areas like the Red River Valley.
-Fund for renewable energy programs – The Farm Bill makes critical investments to the renewable fuel industry at a time when it needs it most. North Dakota is home to four ethanol plants and the largest biodiesel plant in North America.
-Improve the wetland mitigation process – The bill creates a wetland mitigation bank to help farmers better manage excess water on their farms while at the same time providing improved habitats for water fowl. Additionally, the legislation directs the Secretary of Agriculture to provide Congress with recommendations for how the processes could be improved to better enable growers to use wetland mitigations, a process that is currently underutilized.
-Enhance conservation technical assistance – A backlog at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for wetland determinations is a source of frustration for many growers in North Dakota. The compromise includes a provision to allow USDA to determine funding amounts for technical assistance so that the department can target resources to where they are most needed.