The Nebraska Farm Bureau has identified the organization’s top five priorities for the new farm bill, as representatives of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate work to negotiate a final Farm Bill from the versions passed by the House and Senate. Nebraska Farm Bureau shared the priorities in correspondence to members of Nebraska’s Congressional delegation thanking them for their efforts to advance farm bill discussions, while also encouraging them to communicate the priorities to members of Congress tasked with putting the finishing touches on the bill.
“The farm bill is an important piece of legislation for all Americans, but it is especially important to our farmers and ranchers. While only a small percentage of the dollars allocated in the farm bill aid farm and ranch families, those dollars are vital to funding risk management programs that help farmers deal with the volatility in agricultural markets, while also assisting farmers and ranchers impacted by catastrophic floods, rain and hail, droughts, and other natural disasters beyond their control,” said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president.
Nebraska Farm Bureau’s priorities for the farm bill negotiations include:
1. Protecting and improving risk management programs.
“Both the House and Senate versions of the farm bill largely leave federal crop insurance untouched. Our members have made it clear the preservation of a robust federal crop insurance system is a top priority,” said Nelson. “The House and Senate versions of the farm bill also offer beneficial changes to federal commodity programs including the use of a new data set when determining yields under the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program, as well as the inclusion of a floating reference price under the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program.”
2. Ensuring the conservation title does not include new permanent easement and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) language.
“The Senate passed version of the bill created a new permanent easement program to help transition acres out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). These acres would then be held in their “retired” condition in perpetuity. Nebraska Farm Bureau policy raises concerns with the concept of permanent easements and it’s important this program is dropped out of the final bill,” said Nelson. “The Senate bill also modifies CSP by re-infusing top-down bureaucracy and carving up the program. It adds multiple layers of bureaucratic hurdles and consultation requirements, as well as redirecting funding away from on-the-ground conservation practices, which is a concern.”
3. Growing federal trade promotion programs.
“Now more than ever we need programs focused on export growth and promotion of U.S. agricultural products overseas. Both the House and Senate bills combine the Market Access program, Foreign Market Development program, the Emerging Markets program, and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops into one program,” said Nelson. “These programs are vital to market growth and it’s important Congress strengthens the budget for this new program,” said Nelson.
4. Helping create new health insurance plans for farmers and ranchers who are suffering the brunt of the Affordable Care Act’s unaffordable health insurance.
“The House bill creates a new loan and grant program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to assist in the establishment of agricultural association health plans. The cost of health care and health insurance ranked second in terms of the most concerning issue for farmers and ranchers at Nebraska Farm Bureau listening sessions held around the state this summer. As organizations around the country look to better serve the agricultural community by trying to offer new health insurance options, this new program could go a long way in helping to provide the necessary seed-money to get these options from concept to reality,” said Nelson.
5. Continuing work to eliminate unnecessary and harmful federal regulations.
“Both the House and Senate bill make separate attempts to address a number of regulations which have been points of concern for the agricultural community for years. It is imperative the final bill include measures to fix problems we have had with the enforcement of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, federal Hours of Service regulations for transport of agriculture commodities, efforts by states to improperly regulate interstate commerce, as well as the ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule,” said Nelson. “It is important to note that each of these efforts have bipartisan support.”
The Nebraska Farm Bureau is a grassroots, state-wide organization dedicated to supporting farm and ranch families and working for the benefit of all Nebraskans through a wide variety of educational, service and advocacy efforts. More than 61,000 families across Nebraska are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve rural and urban prosperity as agriculture is a key fuel to Nebraska’s economy. For more information about Nebraska Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit www.nefb.org.