Agriculture Department officials and some outside experts expect landowners to sign up for the land-idling Conservation Reserve Program in the largest numbers in at least a decade due to the slow farm economy.
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren wants to put the federal government back in the business of managing commodity supplies in order to guarantee that farmers won’t lose money on their crops.
House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, in an unusually blunt confrontation with a senior USDA official, threatened to sue the department for resuming enrollment Wednesday in the “continuous” portion of the Conservation Reserve Program.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue provided the implementation dates for the 2018 farm bill, saying the first payments to dairy producers could be delivered in July, and he told lawmakers that the White House is working on a comprehensive immigration reform proposal with the help of a USDA adviser.
Advocates for dairy farmers pressed USDA officials at a farm bill listening session to move quickly to get payments to financially strapped producers, while other groups urged the department to put a priority on removing barriers to cover crops and scheduling signups for major conservation programs.
Congress chose the Prairie Pothole Region to try out shorter-term Conservation Reserve Program contracts, infusing the 34-year-old program with lower-cost alternatives for farmers wanting to idle their least productive cropland.
The new farm bill largely preserves the commodity and conservation programs but it includes some significant improvements for dairy producers and also would raise price floors for sugar and other commodities.
The average farmer probably won’t notice anytime soon that the 2014 farm bill has expired, but producers who try to sign up for some conservation programs could be turned away, and some commodity groups will have to go without some trade promotion funding on which they have counted.