READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, September 9th…

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Heritage Foundation Looking to the 2018 Farm Bill

The Heritage Foundation is already laying out its case for ending commodity programs and crop insurance policies in the 2018 farm bill. Pro Ag obtained a report that lays out the agenda for the lobbying arm of the organization to implement when farm bill negotiations get going. The report says most farmers are able to manage risk without taxpayer help. They say the $15 billion annually spent on programs actually promotes riskier farming practices, such as limited crop diversification and farming land prone to flooding and erosion. The report says some farmers would lose their land, but they feel the government should not be guaranteeing that all farming operations survive and even flourish. The Foundation wants several programs enacted in the 2014 farm bill to be eliminated, including support programs like Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage. The group also wants to eliminate the dairy insurance program and current U.S. sugar policies to be discontinued as well. They want federal crop insurance to only cover deep yield losses and disasters, and not cover revenue loss.   


Ag Reacts to the Heritage Foundation Report

Early reactions to the Heritage Foundation Report that calls for an end to commodity support programs and crop insurance have been swift. Dale Moore of the American Farm Bureau Federation says the Heritage Foundation hasn’t considered the current farm economy in their report that would leave farmers without a viable safety net. He said the challenges to cotton and dairy producers have been particularly difficult. “Congress and agriculture groups have worked toward a more market-oriented system in recent years,” Moore said. Tom Sell of the lobbying firm Combest, Sell and Associates said congress has rejected this line of thinking in the past. They recognize that farmers take on extraordinary risks to produce food for a market that’s been very distorted and volatile in recent years. “They know the Heritage Foundation is trying to demean policies that total one-quarter of one percent of the overall federal budget,” Sell said. 


Grassley sets consolidation hearings

Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said his committee will hold hearings on proposed consolidation in the chemical and seed sectors of agriculture. The Hagstrom Report says his announcement comes at the same time that Bob Young, Chief Economist from the American Farm Bureau Federation, expressed concerns about the three corporate mergers currently being considered. Grassley will hold the hearing on September 20, telling reporters that “if the mergers go through, you’d have a big three instead of a big six.” Grassley is referring to the proposed mergers of Dow and DuPont, the ChemChina plan to buy Syngenta, and the offer by Bayer to buy Monsanto. An article in the Financial Times reported yesterday that Young said, “Any one of the proposed mergers would have been okay, but to have three of them hit at once, it kind of makes one wonder.” Young said he’s concerned about the cost of inputs for farmers. “The obvious concern is would the mergers bring you to a point where they charge more than would otherwise be the case with more competition,” said Young.


Farm Credit Associations’ Boards Vote For Merger

The Boards of Directors’ of 1st Farm Credit Services, AgStar Financial Services, and Badgerland Financial unanimously voted to recommend a merger of their three associations to their respective members and stockholders.  The next steps will include a review and approval by AgriBank, which is the funding bank for the three association, as well as a regulatory review and approval by the Farm Credit Administration.  Both are scheduled to happen later in 2016.  The proposed merger decision will be finalized with a stockholder vote in 2017.  Some of the key decisions reached during the early discussion include Rod Hebrink, president and CEO of AgStar Financial Services, leading the proposed merged association.  The headquarters of the proposed association will be in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.  All office locations will remain with the proposed merged association.  “The three associations share the same values and commitment to rural communities and agriculture, which will carry over into the proposed merged association,” said Gary Ash, President and CEO of 1st Farm Credit Services.


Improving Access to Voluntary Farm Conservation Programs

Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Arizona Republican John Boozman introduced the Improving Access to Farm Conservation Act this week. It’s legislation designed to improve access to the voluntary farm programs administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The NRCS provides the knowledge and financial assistance to help farmers improve conservation practices on their farms. However, the report requirements and other red tape have been difficult for smaller, mid-sized, or newer farmers to navigate. The reporting is done electronically and farmers who don’t have reliable broadband access in rural areas are at a bigger disadvantage. The bill is designed to remove the burdensome regulations for NRCS cost-share recipients. “Minnesota farmers want to take part in these conservation programs,” said Senator Klobuchar, “but the burdensome reporting requirements make the programs harder to access. This legislation will remove government red tape standing between all farmers and the conservation programs that protect their farmlands and the surrounding environment.”


Ag Groups Question Venue for ‘WOTUS’ Appeal

Organizations looking to overturn the EPA’s and the Army Corps’ Waters of the U.S. Rule want the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether or not the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is the right venue to hear challenges to the rule.  The Sixth Circuit Court earlier dismissed legal challenges that said Federal District Court is the right place to hear the challenges instead of the appeals court.  The petition was not filed based on the merits of the case, but rather based on jurisdiction challenges that repeatedly come up during challenges to Clean Water Act actions.  “Now is the time for the Supreme Court to resolve the confusion among lower courts as to where jurisdiction lies,” said Ellen Steen, General Counsel for the American Farm Bureau Federation.  “That way, the AFBF and other organizations can stop wasting their time and resources arguing with the federal government over where to file these challenges.” 

SOURCE: NAFB News Service