The top Republican on the House Ag Committee is making clear he wants nothing to do with some proposals by fellow conservatives to slash farm bill programs.

“I don’t appreciate it, I think it’s bad messaging,” Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson said Wednesday at the Farm Program Show in Boone, Iowa. “If any of those policies would be implemented by any administration in either party, it would crush rural America.”

A proposed budget released by members of the Republican Study Committee calls for eliminating the farm bill’s “duplicative” Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage programs to save $42.7 billion over 10 years. The plan also proposes cutting crop insurance premiums in half and eliminating the federal reimbursement to crop insurance companies for administrative expenses. 

A majority of House Republicans are members of the RSC. Sixteen of them signed the budget proposal, including Ron Estes of Kansas, Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, Ronny Jackson of Texas, and House Ag member Trent Kelly of Mississippi.

Take note: While Thompson isn’t one, the RSC has many Ag Committee members, including Austin Scott and Rick Allen from Georgia, Randy Feenstra of Iowa, Vicky Hartzler of Missouri and Dusty Johnson of South Dakota.

While we’re at it: Thompson, who will likely become chairman of House Ag if Republicans win control of the chamber in November, said he plans to begin hearings on a new farm bill early in the new year. He didn’t give a timeline for acting on the bill, but he said he wants funding allocations from the House Budget Committee by June or July.

USDA sweetens insurance products

USDA is offering improvements to two smaller insurance products that are aimed at specialty crop operations and smaller-scale farms. Among other things, USDA is doubling the maximum insurable revenue under the Whole Farm Revenue Protection plan and reducing paperwork requirements. Farms can now insure up to $17 million in revenue with WFRP policies.

WFRP has seen a decline in enrollment since peaking in 2017.

USDA also is more than tripling the size of farm operations eligible for Micro Farm policies. Farmers with revenue of up to $350,000 will now be eligible for that product.

Risk Management Agency Administrator Marcia Bunger says the upgrades will help “more local food, direct market, specialty crop and organic producers protect their operations.” 

Ukraine, Poland agree to veg oil pipeline

Ukraine and Poland have agreed to build a pipeline to pump vegetable oil between the two countries, creating a new avenue for Ukrainian exports of one of its most profitable ag commodities, according to the consulting firm APK Inform.

In addition to wheat and corn, Ukraine is renowned for its production of sunflower seed oil, but the war with Russia cut off most trade for more than five months. The recent reopening of three ports in Odesa has rekindled Ukrainian ag exports, but the deal with Russia to let that happen is tenuous and some of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports are still closed.

The pipeline is planned to deliver Ukrainian vegetable oil to the Polish port city of Gdansk, but it’s still unclear how long it will take to construct.

Algeria evolving into US soy customer

Algeria is still a minor foreign buyer of U.S. soybeans, but that’s changing, U.S. Soybean Export Council CEO Jim Sutter tells Agri-Pulse.

Previously, Algeria imported only soymeal, and they mostly got that from South America. But now the North African country is building crushing plants, and USSEC officials are working with them to extol the benefits of buying from the U.S.

Sutter said Algeria has built two crushing plants in the past couple of years and two more are under construction. The U.S. exported about 71,000 metric tons of soybeans to Algeria in the first six months of this year, up drastically from roughly 41,000 tons in the same period of 2021, according to USDA data.

Arizona negotiator: Time for major drought actions

Tom Buschatzke, the director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, is urging the Bureau of Reclamation to take “bold steps” to stabilize the Colorado River system.

In a letter to the agency, Buschatzke outlined a list of 13 actions he’d like to see the agency take, including incentivizing conversions to less water intensive crops, charging Lower Basin contractors for evaporation and losses, prioritizing federal drought funding for long-term reductions and creating new beneficial use criteria for Lower Basin water users.

“No single action will solve the current crisis, and some actions may be more feasible or result in more water savings than others,” he says. “We cannot afford to do nothing, and we cannot simply rely on the tools we have used to date. We must give due consideration to each of these ideas.”

Take note: In the letter, Buschatzke name-dropped Southern Nevada Water Authority General Manager John Entsminger, who sent the same list of actions to Reclamation earlier this month and urged the agency to implement them in an “expedient and aggressive” manner.

He said it. “Without a robust rural America, people in the city are going to wake up hungry, and the more I learn about cotton, they’re going to wake up naked too.” - Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., on the Republican Study Committee budget proposal.

Bill Tomson, Noah Wicks and Spencer Chase contributed to this report.

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