The American Farm Bureau Federation is appealing to Congress to increase commodity program reference prices and marketing loan rates in the next farm bill while also increasing assistance for dairy producers.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, on Thursday released an outline of more than 60 farm bill priorities approved by the group’s board of directors. The recommendations also call for protecting funding for conservation in general but proposed rules changes to reduce the enrollment of prime farmland in the Conservation Reserve Program.

AFBF didn’t offer suggestions for ways to pay for the changes it is seeking, which also include increased funding for biofuel and methane digester projects as well as two export promotion programs, Foreign Market Development and the Market Access Program.

The organization also calls for keeping nutrition assistance programs as part of the farm bill. Republicans struggled to move the legislation that became the 2014 and 2018 farm bills through the House because of GOP-backed cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Zippy Duvall, the group's president, told reporters it is up to Congress to find new funding for the next farm bill, which Congress is due to write in 2023.

“Surely after going through the pandemic, and seeing what's happening around the Ukraine war, … we understand more than ever how important food security is here in our country,” Duvall said.

Andrew Walmsley, a senior director of government affairs for AFBF, said the organization didn’t have an estimate of how much the commodity program changes would cost. "We're hopeful that the committees will have the resources they need to address the needs that our members are identifying," he said. 

AFBF isn’t proposing specific increases in reference prices, which determine when payments are triggered by the Price Loss Coverage or Agriculture Risk Coverage programs, or in marketing loan rates. Some commodity groups, including those representing soybeans and wheat, have called for raising reference prices but also have stopped short of recommending specific rates. 

AFBF says that unassigned, former generic base acres on a farm should be redistributed to update its crop base and that ARC and PLC payment base should be restored to the “20% of seed cotton base acres that were designated as unassigned and unpaid in the 2018 farm bill."

Here is a look at some of the other AFBF priorities:

Dairy — AFBF is recommending changes to the Dairy Margin Coverage that could increase payments. The group calls for increasing the 5-million-pound limit for Tier 1 coverage and updating farm production averages to either the current production amount or a three-year rolling average.

AFBF is silent on whether the pricing formula incorporated in the federal milk marketing order system should be modified. The organization is convening a meeting of producers and processors this weekend in Kansas City to discuss the issue. He said any recommendations that come out of the meeting could be considered at AFBF’s annual meeting in January.

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Conservation programs — AFBF says its recommendations for CRP are aimed at "encouraging prime farmland to come back into production,” while targeting “the program for marginal acres, land that is highly erodible or non-productive.”

Among the AFBF proposals: Lower the program’s acreage cap to an unspecified level; prohibit farms from enrolling more than 25% of their land; prioritize water quality and soil health benefits over wildlife benefits; and limit the size of pollinator tracts.

The group calls for maintaining the current requirement in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program that 50% of the funding go to livestock operations. The requirement wasn’t included with the additional EQIP funding provided by the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act.

AFBF also wants flexibility in EQIP to address “local and regional resource challenges, including groundwater sustainability and drought relief, resilience, and preparedness.”

Crop insurance: AFBF reiterated its opposition to means testing the program or reducing premium subsidies. The organization also wants to accelerate the process USDA uses to allow policies for additional commodities.

Specialty crops — AFBF supports the creation of a “termed stopgap profit/loss assistance program” that would compensate growers due to losses caused by increases in imports.

AFBF also says USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for schools should include frozen, canned and dried as well as fresh produce. However, priority should be given to fresh and locally grown produce.

As part of the nutrition title, AFBF is calling for a new block grant program “that would allow food banks and food access networks to directly purchase specialty crops from farmers.”

Farm loans — AFBF proposes "streamlining loan programs and ensuring loan amounts keep pace with farm-level expenses; and minimizing application requirements for young and beginning farmer guarantee programs so they are more aligned with agricultural lenders."

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