NFU offers new 2012 farm bill proposal

By Stewart Doan

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 - The National Farmers Union (NFU) says the 2012 Farm bill should combine parts of the SURE, ACRE, and Direct and Countercyclical Payment programs to create an all encompassing safety net to protect farmers from weather disasters and contribute to deficit reduction.

 In a package of policy recommendations submitted Wednesday to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, NFU, the second-largest U.S. farm organization, said that cuts in mandatory agriculture spending should not exceed $16 billion.  That's about half the amount suggested by President Obama.

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 Budget cuts that “adversely impact” the productivity and profitability of production agriculture are “counterproductive” to our overall national economic interests, NFU said.  It added that nutrition programs should be spared from cuts.

 Farmers Union's preference for a whole-farm revenue protection safety net based, in part, on farm-level yields is similar to a proposal authored by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the powerful Budget Committee and a senior member of the Ag Committee.

 In addition to commodity and nutrition programs, the NFU farm bill blueprint also covers crop insurance, conservation, dairy, livestock, energy, and rural development.

 “Affordable” federal crop insurance should be available to farmers in areas of the country that have historically not carried significant levels of coverage, the group said.  It also urged the development of crop insurance products for specialty crops, which account for roughly 50 percent of the annual value of U.S. agricultural production.

 NFU advocated for a conservation title that includes both a working lands program and a retirement program, but stressed that working lands programs must be given funding priority.

National Farmers Union President stands by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
during his organization's annual fall Fly-In to Washington D.C.
Without mentioning the Conservation Reserve Program by name or proposing a specific acreage cap, the group said it supports a “scaled down” land retirement program that focuses more on conserving fragile lands and ecosystems.

While characterizing existing federal dairy policy as “fragmented and dysfunctional,” NFU said the Milk Income Loss Contract and Dairy Product Price Support Program should not be replaced by an “untested” insurance program, an apparent reference to the margin insurance provision of the Dairy Security Act introduced by House Ag Ranking Member Collin Peterson of Minnesota and senior House Republican Mike Simpson of Idaho.


 NFU added that a supply management program that “uses a fixed base as well as a refundable assessment, collected on all milk at all times,” is a necessary component of future policy. 


 Regarding the livestock title, the group lobbied for increased enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, re-establishment of “functional” markets and resolving captive supply issues.


 The NFU document also calls for more government support for beginning farmers and organic growers.


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