Farm Bureau Works Ahead on Priorities for Next Farm Bill

If there is one message Iowa Farm Bureau Federation leaders would like to send to farm bill negotiators this winter, it is a simple one: Keep your hands off of crop insurance.

Congress just passed the last farm bill in 2014, but agricultural leaders began talking a few months ago about starting discussion for a new farm bill in 2017.

In response, IFBF leaders told their voting delegates earlier this fall to come to the annual meeting in December with thoughts about what they see as priorities for that bill.

It was a change for the IFBF, which has in recent years handled most of its delegate discussion of issues during the earlier meeting. But national leaders say there is reason to begin preparing for a farm bill debate.

One reason is the sooner that debate starts, the less likely it may be that Congress or the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) re-scores the budget numbers for agriculture and essentially hands farmers a lower baseline budget for the next farm bill, according to Mary Kay Thatcher, a senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Commodity payments to farmers may be lower in 2018, and that could push the baseline down.

In addition, Thatcher explains, it takes time to go through a committee process and to write up legislation as complex as a farm bill. For those reasons, the process could start in 2017.

In response, the Iowa delegates voted for several resolutions, one of which was a statement that federal crop insurance would be their top priority for the next farm bill.

Of course, there are other important farm bill issues. One of the biggest is the idea of separating the agricultural programs from the nutrition programs. Republicans in Congress pushed that idea during the last farm bill debate, but most farm organization leaders oppose the idea.

Thatcher says the reasoning isn’t difficult to follow. Of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 55 have no rural areas in their districts. The bottom line, she says, is that no farm bill would pass if the nutrition program was separated from the farm bill.

‘We could no more get it through the House than the man on the moon,’ she told the Iowa group last week.

The Iowa delegates voiced their support for keeping the nutrition and agricultural programs together in the farm bill.

They also discussed some concerns about the dairy program structure and about the structure of the Agricultural Risk Coverage county program (ARC-CO).

The ARC program has drawn criticism because of the disparity between counties when it comes to program payments.

Source: Gene Lucht, Midwest Producer

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