The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Ag groups want House to pass bill this year

Farm, ranch, agriculture and conservation groups of all types reacted to Senate passage of the farm bill Thursday by calling on the House of Representatives to pass the farm bill as soon as possible this year.

Here is a sampling of reaction:

The National Farmers Union

Said it was pleased the Senate “was able to come together in a bipartisan manner to pass … such a vital piece of legislation for family farmers and ranchers across the country,” but added “We look forward to working with members of the U.S. House of Representatives to get a farm bill passed, and then working with both chambers of Congress through a conference committee to complete a bill by the time the current farm bill expires on Sept. 30.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation

Said the bill “provides farmers improved risk management tools consistent with Farm Bureau's core principles. Now our attention turns to the House Agriculture Committee, which will begin its farm bill legislative activity in July. It remains critical for farmers to know what their new farm bill will be as they begin thinking about and looking toward next year’s cropping decisions. “

The National Cotton Council

Said “The cotton industry has reservations about a number of provisions in the Senate-passed legislation, but believes that the cotton title will facilitate successful resolution of the cotton component of the Brazil WTO dispute."

"The cotton industry looks forward to working with the leaders of the House Agriculture Committee and Cotton Belt members as they develop their version of new farm legislation," the group said. "It is important for Congress to complete and the president to sign, in a timely manner, new farm legislation that is balanced, stable and predictable.”

Environmental Defense Fund

Said the $6.4 billion cut in conservation programs “will hurt conservation efforts on the ground,” but added that senators “made an effort to mitigate the impact of the loss in conservation funding” by consolidating some conservation programs and making it easier to leverage resources from local and state governments and other partners who can assist producers in voluntary, cooperative efforts to address local, state and regional conservation priorities.

EDF also noted that the bill included conservation compliance for crop insurance.

Union of Concerned Scientists

Said the bill “took a big step” toward providing more support for healthy food and farms and addressing “the inequities in farm subsidy programs that benefit industrial agriculture at the expense of public health and the environment.”

“As the farm bill moves ahead, we urge the House to pick up where the Senate left off and continue to improve the bill to make sure it promotes healthy food and local farms,” the group said.

The Nature Conservancy

Said “The Senate got the conservation and forestry titles in the farm bill right — and that is no small feat.”

“The House of Representatives should now hold the line on funding for the conservation title as it develops its own version of the farm bill,” the group said. “Any cuts to conservation funding below the Senate-approved amounts would jeopardize this country’s entire system of successful voluntary private lands conservation programs.”

United Fresh Produce Association

Said the bill “supports fruits and vegetables in ways that will boost consumption and help provide healthful options to Americans – through block grants, nutrition programs and pest and disease research.”

“We’re looking forward to working with the House to preserve funding for these critical fruit and vegetable programs,” the group said.

United Fresh noted that the bill maintains 2008 levels of funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), which it called “a victory for the more than 3 million school children who receive a fresh fruit or vegetable snack from the program each day.”

The association also said it was pleased by the Senate’s acceptance of an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., which calls for a feasibility study of insurance products that could cover recalls, quarantines and market disruptions.

Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance

Said the bill includes key specialty crop industry priorities such as research, pest and disease mitigation, trade, nutrition, and other programs that enhance the ability of producers to be competitive and meet the needs of American consumers.

The group highlighted the following programs in the bill:
  • Specialty Crop Block Grants funded at $70 million per year
  • Specialty Crop Research Initiative funded at $25 million in FY13; $30 million in FY14-15; $65 million in FY16; $50 million in FY17
  • Plant Pest and Disease Program funded at $60 million in FY13-16 and $65 million in FY17
  • Market Access Program and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops fully funded at 2008 farm bill levels
  • Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program fully funded at 2008 farm bill levels
  • Hunger-Free Communities Grant Program for fruit and vegetable SNAP incentives
  • Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program
  • Section 32 specialty crop purchases funded at 2008 farm bill levels
  • DoD Fresh program fully funded at $50 million per year consistent with 2008 levels

American Farmland Trust

Said it was particularly pleased that the Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., amendment to reattach conservation compliance to crop and revenue insurance was adopted and that the bill includes the new agricultural land easement component, patterned after the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP), which now includes many of the functions of the Grasslands Reserve Program.

AFT also praised inclusion of an amendment offered by Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, that that supports the role of land trusts and state agencies that work with USDA in protecting farm and ranch lands through this program.

Food & Water Watch

Said the bill “left the largest agribusiness and food processing companies firmly in control of America’s food system.”

“There has been a complete lack of Senate leadership on the continued consolidation of the entire food and farm sector, which harms farmers and consumers,” the group said, noting that packer-ban and livestock market reform amendments did not make the list for floor consideration.

“One of the rare bright spots in the Senate debate came when the Senate considered an amendment to allow states to require labeling of genetically engineered foods," the group said, adding that even the GMO amendment offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., did not pass, "the Senate’s consideration of GE labeling is long overdue."

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Said that, “While the bill includes historic commodity payment limit reforms and renewed investments in a variety of sustainable farm and food programs, the Senate-passed bill is far from perfect.”

But NSAC said Senate adoption of amendments on rural development and beginning farmers, on soil and wetland conservation, crop insurance subsidy limits, crop insurance for organic farmers and commodity payment limit reform made it possible for the group to support final passage.

“Our message to the House leaders is very simple,” NSAC said. “Now is not the time to hit the ‘pause’ button, now is the time to roll up your sleeves and get the bill done on time and in proper order. It is not yet time to hit the panic button, but the hand must come off the pause button, or there will be no bill this year.”

National Association of Conservation Districts

Praised the bill and called on the House to “follow the Senate’s lead in passing a bill that fairly recognizes the critical role of locally-led conservation in protecting and preserving America’s natural resources at the landscape scale.”

“As we face increased pressure to produce food, feed, fuel and fiber for a growing population, we simply can’t afford not to invest in our natural resource base,” the group added.

National Milk Producers Federation

Called the dairy title a “huge and historic step toward making a once-in-a-generation improvement in the safety net for America’s dairy farmers.”

“Although it was necessary to work to defeat several unacceptable amendments, the fundamental package of dairy policy reforms supported by NMPF remained unchanged throughout the Senate debate,” the group said.

U.S. Wheat Associates

Said it was fortunate that the amendment to cut funding for the Market Access Program was defeated. “Committee and floor debate in the House and in conference lie ahead,” said USW, which represents wheat exporters.

“Final approval may be months away and many changes will be made along the way, but the National Association of Wheat Growers continues advocating in Congress for policies that support U.S. farm families who supply wheat to the world. “

The American Soybean Association

Praised passage, but said it was pleased that amendments that would have checkoffs voluntary, reduced Market Access Program funding and required labeling of biotech food products were defeated.

“We look forward to working with the House Agriculture Committee as it finalizes its version of this legislation, so the 2012 farm bill can be completed this year,” the group said.

“While ASA disagrees with some of the amendments that were approved on the floor of the Senate, on the whole ASA believes the Senate’s farm bill will help farmers manage risk, conserve natural resources and develop foreign markets,” said Steve Wellman, association president. “Additionally, maintaining the viability of the crop insurance program as an effective risk management tool is a top priority for ASA and soybean farmers.”

Dairy Farmers of America

Urged the House to include dairy provisions similar to those in the Senate bill.

“With dairy producers experiencing another low price cycle, it is imperative that the House takes quick and decisive action to signal to hard-working farm families that tools will be available to help them manage through future market declines,” DFA said.

The Biotechnology Organization

Praised the 73-to-26 defeat of the amendment requiring biotech labeling and urged “leaders of the House of Representatives to take up this important legislation.”

“The Senate’s action today confirms that the path to awareness about biotechnology is not through changes to the U.S. government's food labeling policy, which requires labeling to provide consumers with information about health, safety or nutrition,” said Bio Vice President Cathleen Enright.

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Noted several amendments approved by the Senate, including a measure re-linking conservation compliance and crop insurance which was introduced by Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia. It also praised the bill’s “sodsaver” provision.

Steve Kline, director of the organization’s Center for Agricultural and Private Lands, said “The Senate farm bill invokes sportsmen’s values, helps sustain fish and wildlife habitat and makes the conservation title more user friendly and more efficient.”

The Agriculture Energy Coalition

Praised the bill for having a strong energy title that includes mandatory funding of energy programs.

“We urge members of the House, which is currently considering energy legislation, to quickly take up and pass the farm bill and its energy title,” the coalition said. “An ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy must include renewable energy and create opportunities for every region, especially rural areas.”

The Agricultural Energy Coalition is a membership-based consortium of organizations and companies representing a broad spectrum of clean, renewable energy, energy efficiency and bioproducts stakeholders.

The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

Said its members “appreciate” Senate passage of the bill, but noted regional disparities.

“We recognize that this is only one step in the process and that the Senate bill fails to provide an adequate safety net for producers in certain regions of the country, especially the South,” the group said. “As action turns towards the House and, eventually, a conference committee, NCFC looks forward to the continuing process of crafting a farm bill that is regionally balanced and able to garner broad support across commodities.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

Came out strongly for the bill as passed.

“Although the amendment process was certainly concerning in its early stages, all is well for cattlemen and women thanks to their outspoken grassroots advocacy,” the association said. “This legislation, as written, incorporates all NCBA priorities.”

“Bottom-line, there is no livestock title, conversation programs – specifically EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) – are maintained and the research title is sustained,” the group said. “All this is done with more than $20 billion in savings to the American taxpayer.

“We support this legislation and will continue working with the House to ensure amendments that would interject the federal government into production agriculture are left out of the legislation or soundly defeated.”

National Corn Growers Association

Said it is pleased the “significant hurdle” of Senate passage has been overcome, and that it hopes “to pass a new commonsense, reformed 2012 farm bill before Congress recesses in August.”

The USA Rice Federation

Said it is disappointed that the bill “includes commodity policies that lock-in profits for some producers in some states while locking-out long-grain rice farmers throughout the Mid-South and Gulf Coast from an effective safety net.”

“Sadly, while the Senate farm bill appears to harm only Southern agriculture, the effects of a long-term decline in crop prices would be felt by producers of all crops because this farm bill would fail them," the group said. "We look forward to House consideration of its farm bill, where the chairman and ranking member of the Agriculture Committee advocate an equitable and effective farm policy that does not guarantee certain farmers profits, does offer producer safety-net options, and will not fail farmers in hard times.”

The Southern Peanut Farmers Federation

Said it is disappointed that the Senate bill “does not include policies that provide a safety net for peanut producers. Instead, the legislation increases the role of crop insurance exponentially.”

“Crop insurance should be an option for peanut producers but not the only option,” the group said. “It is unfortunate that the Senate farm bill’s ‘one size fits all’ structure assures that certain commodities in specific regions will benefit at the detriment of southern commodities.”

The group added that House Agriculture Committee leaders “have made it clear to our peanut leadership that producers should have a choice of programs including a farm safety net option.”

The Southern Peanut Farmers Federation comprises the Alabama Peanut Producers Association, the Florida Peanut Producers Association, the Mississippi Peanut Growers Association and the Georgia Peanut Commission.

Rice and peanut roll calls

In an apparent signal of potential rewards and punishment, the USA Rice Federation and the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation have published lists of senators from rice and peanut-growing states and how they voted on the farm bill.

Rice producing states:
  • Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark. — No
  • Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. — No
  • Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. — Yes
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. — Yes
  • Sen. Mary Landrieu. D-La. — No
  • Sen. David Vitter, R-La — No
  • Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. — Yes
  • Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. — Yes
  • Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. — No
  • Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. — No
  • Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas — No
  • Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas — Yes

Peanut producing states:
  • Sen. Richard Shelby , R-Ala. – No
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. – No
  • Sen. David Pryor, D-Ark. – No
  • Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark. – No
  • Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. – Yes
  • Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. – No
  • Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. – No
  • Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. – No
  • Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. – No
  • Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. – No
  • Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C. – No
  • Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. – No
  • Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. – No
  • Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C. – Yes
  • Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas – No
  • Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas – Yes
  • Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. – Yes
  • Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va. – Yes