(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association)
What are the priorities for the Farm Bill?
April 6, 2023 | Jeff Hutton
Increased funding, flexibility within conservation programs and improvements to farm safety net programs are just some of the priorities being suggested by soybean producers as Congress tackles the 2023 Farm Bill.
Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) District 5 Director Morey Hill of Madrid and District 9 Director Pat Swanson of Ottumwa, both of whom serve as American Soybean Association (ASA) directors, say there are a number of Farm Bill priorities that Congress should concentrate their efforts on.
Farm Safety Net
“Safety net programs, like the Title I Farm Safety Net components of Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC), must be improved for soybeans,” Hill says. “Soy reference price needs to be increased, along with an option to update base acres. Farmers must have flexibility for planting to take advantage of market conditions.
“We are asking our Congressional Delegation to pass a timely, well-funded Farm Bill that protects our No. 1 safety net – crop insurance,” she says.
Their concerns echo that of the entire ASA leadership team, which is asking Congress to improve the ARC and PLC programs.
ASA has suggested the Farm Bill include these points when it comes to the Farm Safety Net including:
- Crop insurance must remain affordable.
- Marketing assistance loans must be maintained, and consideration should be given to increasing marketing loan rates.
- Program eligibility should not be restricted through means testing.
- As a condition of receiving Title I and crop insurance benefits, farmers are required to meet specific environmental standards such as protecting water quality, wetlands or soil health. These should be maintained but not augmented.
- If a standing disaster assistance program is created, the financial protection provided by Title I programs and crop insurance should not be reduced to fund the disaster program, and it must not undercut or disincentivize participation in crop insurance.
The two directors are also focused on trade and say the Farm Bill should add more dollars to further provide opportunities for more trade.
Swanson says the Farm Bill should “increase funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) to promote soybeans and increase global markets.”
“Trade is especially important for moving our supply of soybeans. MAP and FMD, which are great public-private partnerships, leverage cost share programs to promote U.S. soy around the world,” Hill says. “As a member of World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH), I have seen firsthand the success these programs have achieved. Dollars for MAP and FMD have not been increased for 20+ years. Now is the time to increase funding.”
In its priorities for the Farm Bill, ASA indicates annual funding should be doubled to $69 million for FMD and $400 million for MAP.
The ASA also suggests that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) export credit guarantee program (GSM-102) and the Facility Guarantee Program (FGP) should continue and be fully utilized; and that international food aid program should allow for increased flexibility for monetization requirements.
Swanson and Hill are also eyeing conservation practices within the bill.
“The bill should enhance access and continue a voluntary, incentive-based approach to conservation programs,” Swanson says, noting that early adopters must be fully eligible for the programs. She adds that regulatory burdens regarding program enrollment and adaptive management should be reduced.
“As climate-smart initiatives become more in demand, farmers should be rewarded for all conservation practices, not just new add-ons,” Hill says. “There also needs to be some consideration, to standardize the emerging carbon markets. Farmers need to know what their carbon sequestration and conservation practices are worth, not just have a free-for-all.”
ASA’s conservation priorities for the Farm Bill also suggest:
- While all resource concerns are important, funding should be directed to programs and practices that address cropland soil quality and health, water quality and quantity, regulatory certainty and saving input costs. Funding should be directed to working land programs over land retirement programs, and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) should take priority over the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
- Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres should remain approximately unchanged from current levels. Rental rate limits should remain the same or increase. Haying and grazing provisions should be revisited, both for mid-contract management and under emergency scenarios.
- Incentives to encourage use of precision agriculture technologies and specialized equipment to implement certain conservation practices should be considered.
Swanson and Hill and the ASA have also suggested Farm Bill priorities within energy, rural development, research and nutrition. To see the full list of ASA priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill, click here.
The ISA and ASA, as well as the Iowa Corn Growers Association, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, and 400 other farm and industry groups across the country, recently added their names to a letter to Congressional leadership on agriculture’s budgetary needs in the 2023 Farm Bill.
“We write to express our strong support for providing (…) sufficient budgetary resources to write a new bipartisan, multi-year, comprehensive, and meaningful piece of legislation,” the groups say in the letter. “Just as there are many pressures on the federal budget, there are many pressures on U.S. farmers and others throughout the agricultural supply chain who provide food, feed, fuel, fiber, and other products to consumers across the United States and abroad.”
The letter to the Congressional Budget Leadership, which includes Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley who serves as the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Budget, also cites concerns about trade with China, market volatility and more resources to protect farmers.
“Sufficient budgetary resources will be needed to craft a new bipartisan, multi-year, comprehensive, and meaningful piece of legislation. As you work to build the federal budget for fiscal year 2024, we seek your support for providing sufficient resources to the committees to craft the next farm bill,” the letter concludes.
To see the full letter and those organizations who signed on, click here.