WASHINGTON, March 15, 2017 – Farm groups are appealing to congressional budget writers to provide an increase in farm bill spending to help producers cope with the downturn in commodity prices.
An adequate agricultural “safety net will be impossible to achieve without providing additional funding outside the current Farm Bill resources,” the groups say in a letter to the Budget and Appropriations committees in both the House and Senate.
Unless more money is found for the new farm bill, the Senate and House Agriculture committees will have to write the legislation based on the cost of extending existing programs, a limit known as the “baseline.” The existing farm bill expires next year.
The groups do not propose a specific amount that spending should be increased. Such increases are not unprecedented. Funding was increased in both the 2002 and 2008 farm bills.
The letter, which was signed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, 14 commodity groups and the Texas-based Southwest Council of Agribusiness, details current conditions in the farm economy and notes that farm bill spending was reduced in 2014 at a time when many commodity prices were much higher and the farm economy was healthier.
“While we do not yet have a full-fledged financial crisis in rural America, many farmers and ranchers are not going to be able to cash-flow in 2017. With USDA projecting continued low prices in 2018 and beyond, this situation threatens to quickly and vastly expand with each and every crop year,” the letter says.
The groups specifically cite what they say is a need to increase assistance for cotton and dairy producers. The letter says existing crop programs for those commodities are “woefully inadequate.”
The letter doesn’t go into detail about other funding needs but says that other farmers “have also suffered sharp declines in prices that requires a more effective response. Fixing these problems and writing sound farm policies will require more resources than are available” under the baseline, the letter said.
Corn and soybean growers have proposed to revise the Agriculture Risk Coverage program by changing the way county revenue benchmarks are calculated There also will be pressure on the House and Senate Agriculture committees to expand the Conservation Reserve Program and to fund dozens of small but popular programs that otherwise will be left without any funding after 2018.
For an in-depth look at the farm bill baseline and other issues that lawmakers will face when they write new legislation, read the Agri-Pulse series, “The Seven Things You Should Know Before You Write the Next Farm Bill.”
The letter also says that agricultural exports could be “stifled” by the Trump administration’s trade policy and are already being put at an unfair disadvantage because of foreign intervention in agricultural markets.
“According to estimates, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement would have increased farm income by $4.4 billion. Moreover, agricultural exports to Mexico and Canada have quadrupled since we entered the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and Canada and Mexico are our second- and third-largest export markets,” the letter said.
The 14 commodity groups that signed the letter are: American Soybean Association, American Sugar Alliance, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Sunflower Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Sorghum Producers, Panhandle Peanut Growers Association, Southwest Council of Agribusiness, USA Rice Federation, U.S. Canola Association, and the U.S. Dry Bean Council