Farm Groups Want 5-Year Farm Bill, Soon
By Jerry Hagstrom on July 31, 2012
Only three lobbying groups with interests in farm legislation have told DTN that they definitely favor the proposed legislation that would extend the 2008 farm bill and provide disaster aid, giving rise to rumors that House Republican leadership will be forced to pull the bill Tuesday.
In fact, the prospect of an extension bill seems to have rallied support for a five-year farm bill among farm, nutrition, conservation and rural development groups.
The bill is scheduled to come up before the House Rules Committee late Tuesday afternoon and to be on the House floor Wednesday. But Politico reported that House and Senate agriculture committee leaders are scheduled to meet early today to discuss the situation.
Groups favoring the bill are the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and Bread for the World. For each of those groups, another group in the same field is opposed.
One of the key elements in the bill would be aid to livestock producers and an NCBA spokesman said, “We are for it.”
But the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, a competing group, took the opposite position.
“USCA supports a House effort that creates a pathway for a vote on the farm bill and leads to a joint House and Senate conference this session of Congress,” the group said. “Any delay or maneuver that falls short of this is a disservice to the U.S. ranchers and farmers that are experiencing historic drought and fire conditions.”
The extension bill does not contain the dairy reform package that the National Milk Producers Federation, which represents dairy farmers, has proposed and which the International Dairy Foods Association, representing processors, has fought.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, a long-time critic of the dairy program, has been particularly critical of the supply management provision, which is in both the Senate-passed farm bill and the House Agriculture Committee-passed version.
Jerry Slominski, a senior vice president for legislative affairs at IDFA, spoke out against the supply management provision and in favor of the farm bill extension.
“We believe that the full House of Representatives will reject the milk supply management policy that is included in the committee-passed version of the farm bill and that supporters of that controversial program are hoping to short-circuit the regular process to avoid such a vote,” Slominski said in an email.
“As such, we agree with Chairman Lucas that the best path forward is to approve the extension, which will not only provide protection to producers but will allow the House to consider a farm bill under the regular order, to reject the controversial milk supply management program and to build consensus behind true reform for the dairy industry,” he said.
But NMPF said it has “strong opposition” to an extension of the 2008 farm bill.
“The current safety net for dairy farmers is not sufficient in dealing with scenarios like we are currently facing from high feed costs associated with the ongoing drought,” said NMPF President and CEO Jerry Kozak.
“If we are going to be serious about providing better protection for the nation’s dairy farmers, while at the same time providing taxpayer savings from current programs, then we should pass a new farm bill which includes the Dairy Security Act.”
Bread for the World President David Beckmann praised the extension bill because it does not cut either international food aid or SNAP.
“We welcome Speaker Boehner’s proposal to protect nutrition and food aid programs in the disaster relief bill,” Beckmann said.
“Unlike other proposals we’ve seen from the House, this bill does not cut one dime from SNAP or international food aid,” he said. “Given the economic realities families are facing across the United States and around the world, protecting these programs is a must.”
“I would prefer a full reauthorization that maintains strong funding for SNAP and international food aid while making necessary reforms to our nation’s food and farm policies,” added Beckmann. “Still, we are grateful for a proposal that maintains a circle of protection.”
But Oxfam America, another group interested in international food aid, said the extension “is actually worse than the status quo.”
Oxfam America Agriculture Policy Adviser Eric Munoz said, “While it is reasonable to provide emergency assistance to those hit hard by recent extreme weather, it should not come at the expense of poor, hungry people.
“The one-year bill does not reauthorize the pilot program created to purchase international food aid locally and regionally, giving up one of the most promising efforts to save more lives with food aid at lower cost to taxpayers,” Munoz said. “Moreover the bill maintains trade-distorting subsidies and invites costly new retaliatory actions by Brazil because of continued U.S. WTO violations in the cotton subsidy program.”
The five-year bill contains changes to the cotton program, and a National Cotton Council spokeswoman said, “The industry supports enactment of comprehensive, balanced, long-term policy.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the American Soybean Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers and the National Corn Growers Association have all said they favor a five-year bill.
Neither the American Bankers Association nor the Independent Community Bankers Association have taken a position on the extension bill, but Mark Scanlan of ICBA said, “Our ultimate desire would be a five- or six-year bill adopted this year.”
The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance said it favors a five-year bill because both the House and Senate farm bills contain “critical enhancements and reforms to key programs important to specialty crop producers.”
“We are concerned that a one-year extension falls short of that goal and hinders access to key programs for our producers directly related to research, value-added producer grants, and important programs that enhance domestic production,” said Robert Guenther, the United Fresh senior vice president for public policy, who heads the alliance.
“An extension of the current law would be a missed opportunity to enact federal agriculture policy that increases access for specialty crops and fosters competition for our industry both domestically and globally,” Guenther added.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, which is concerned with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps, said, “We would prefer to see the House and Senate work through a farm bill solution that reauthorizes the federal nutrition programs for five years and addresses some important issues in the programs,” the CBPP said.
The bill shifts funding for a number of rural development programs from mandatory to discretionary status, and stops the Agriculture Department from spending $77 million of the money set aside to pay for the Pigford settlements that black farmers won in discrimination cases they filed against the USDA.
“Rural Coalition cannot support a farm bill extension that erases the gains we have struggled to make over many years to assure that USDA provides equitable opportunity and support to the farmers, communities and people who need it most, and builds for them a future in agriculture,” said Executive Director Lorette Picciano.
“I would hope leaders on the Ag committee reconsider the cuts to black farmers,” said National Black Farmers Association President John Boyd Jr.
“This is another example of how blacks have been treated in this country for ‘scores of years,’ Boyd said. “Here we are, nearly two years after president signed the bill, and the black farmers have yet to receive a one red cent of the settlement, and Congress wants to limit payments on justice.”