NFU looks for improved farm safety net, ethanol expansion

SAN DIEGO, March 8, 2017 – Farmers and ranchers participating in the National Farmers Union 115th Anniversary Convention here endorsed several farm bill provisions designed to shore up farm income while “vehemently” opposing any spending cuts. In many cases, they recommended additional spending to shore up the farm safety net.

“Clearly, the farm bill was the subject of a lot of debate,” NFU President Roger Johnson told Agri-Pulse after the delegate session wrapped up on Tuesday. “There is a lot of concern about the financial difficulty that’s out there in agriculture right now.” Earlier, Johnson addressed delegates from the podium with Erik Somerfeld, NFU policy committee chairman, by his side.

After hours of policy updates, NFU delegates approved a handful of “special orders” – signifying a priority within all of their policy positions – that included the farm bill, trade, climate change and ethanol expansion.

Regarding the farm bill, NFU delegates supported:

  • Increases in reference prices to support commodity prices
  • An adequate safety-net that is based on the cost of production and not solely an insurance policy
  • Cotton as a covered commodity
  • Loan rates for all crops that are no lower than the cost of production
  • A revised dairy policy that increases spending for the dairy safety net, programs that account for actual cost of production, and an incentives-based inventory management program
  • Payments made to farmers to reduce crop acreage when prices fall below the cost of production
  • A permanent disaster program, paid on a per county basis.
  • Commodity Credit Corporation-held reserves to control commodity prices with a release price set at 1.75 times the loan rate.
  • Funding for the Certified Agricultural Mediation Program and the Farmer and Rancher Stress Assistance Network.

While noting that “access to global markets is critical for family farm agriculture,” NFU’s special order on trade described current trade policy as “deeply flawed” because trade agreements don’t prioritize eliminating the trade deficit or address unfair practices such as currency manipulation.

“We think there is an opportunity to get our trade policy right with this administration,” Johnson explained. NFU wants a formal federal government review of current trade agreements and a focus on eliminating trade deficits in future trade agreements.

Another special order called for blending higher amounts of ethanol into the gasoline supply.

Johnson said his members “are very passionate about ethanol. They came down strongly on E30 and telling EPA they need to approve this fuel for all vehicles manufactured after 2001.”

The organization has filed legal comments with two law firms, “exposing EPA’s invalid, arbitrary and capricious overreach” with interpreting the Clean Air Act.

NFU’s policy book makes several references to the importance of addressing climate change. As a result, some members argued there was no need for a special order to express support for taking a strong leadership role on this subject. But after considerable debate, the special order calling for NFU to lead in educating family farmers, ranchers and rural communities on climate change adaptation and mitigation was approved in a 63-54 vote.


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