Preparing for winter and farm bill priorities

Ron Kern

Just about have everything at the ranch buttoned up for winter. Seems like each year that passes there’s more to do; that or I’m just getting slower in my old age. I’m betting the latter applies.

Still a week or two left for a fall campfire and some hot drinks. I know one thing the stars seem to be more plentiful and shine brighter this time of year. Sure makes for a relaxing evening.

Farm bill

A new federal farm bill will be written in 2023. Here are the priorities established by Farm Bureau in writing the Farm Bill.

Protecting current farm bill program spending.

Maintain a unified farm bill which keeps nutrition programs and farm programs together.

Any changes to current farm legislation must be an amendment to the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 or the Agricultural Act of 1949.

Prioritize risk management tools and funding for both federal crop insurance and commodity programs.

Ensure adequate USDA staffing capacity and technical assistance.

Title IL We support:

The continuation of a counter-cyclical program like the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program and a revenue program like the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program, including using Risk Management Agency (RMA) data as the primary source to determine a more accurate county yield as long as RMA data at the farm level data is protected from FOIA. If ARCCounty is continued, we support changes to make the program more effective and fair to all farmers. If existing programs continue, the opportunity for farmers to re-elect and/or re-enroll annually.

Basing Title 1 payments on historic, rather than planted, acres;

A reference price increase for all Title 1 commodities.

Unassigned, former generic base acres being redistributed to update crop base on the same farm.

Increased commodity loan rates.

Restoring ARC/PLC payment base on the 20 percent of seed cotton base acres that were designated as unassigned and unpaid in the 2018 farm bill; and keeping provisions that Loan Deficiency Payments and Marketing Loan Gains do not count against per person payment limits.

Title II: We support:

Maintaining funding for federal conservation programs which maintain environmental benefits;

Working lands conservation programs over retirement lands programs; and streamlining the NRCS conservation practice approval process.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP): Capping acreage enrollment to keep land in production;

Capping rental rates to a percentage of average county rental rates;

Making common sense updates to emergency haying and grazing rules, especially adjustments to the turn-in dates surrounding the “primary nesting season,” bale removal, etc.;

Encouraging prime farmland to come back into production, but retain the program for marginal acres, land that is highly erodible or non-productive;

Adjusting the 25 percent limitation. Extend the 25 percent limitation to a per farm basis, not just county wide;

Prioritizing water quality and soil health benefits of CRP over wildlife protection and manage requirements of the program accordingly (such as mowing and maintenance, species mixes, and implementation of buffer/filter strips); and limiting the size of pollinator tracts with an emphasis on smaller parcels and capping pollinator rates.

Maintaining the current prioritization of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding being targeted to livestock producers;

Maintaining an air quality program that assists producers with air quality compliance; and

Allowing for flexibility in addressing local and regional resource challenges, including groundwater sustainability and drought relief, resilience, and preparedness. Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) We support funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) with greater accessibility to farmers.  Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)

Increasing Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) funding; and increasing the ceiling on the eligible federal share for ACEP conservation easement to 80 percent of the easement value.

Title XI: We support:

A robust crop insurance program, with no reductions in premium cost share. We oppose means testing, income limits, or add in’s, such as required production practices, that might limit the availability or adversely impact risk pools;

Expansion of insured commodities including specialty crops. Given limitations of process in adding new commodities, examine ways in which to encourage swifter adoption of policies; and

Develop and maintain adequate risk management tools for livestock producers including contract growers.

We support increased funding for the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program and Market Assistance Program (MAP).

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.

 A consistent, long-term, market-oriented farm policy that is transparent and efficient prioritizing projects with the greatest economic potential for rural communities.

Programs should focus on the following:

Efforts to encourage processing and marketing opportunities for direct-to-market producers. Infrastructure, workforce development and local processing capacity need to be expanded as this market demand has increased exponentially;

Broadband programs prioritizing resources for rural communities most in need of connectivity; and increased access and incentives to provide safe and adequate childcare in rural communities. impact of producer losses due to foreign imports, resulting in an upside-down market.

There’s plenty on the line for agriculture in the next farm bill and with many long-time legislators retiring this one could be crucial to agriculture sustainability.

“Drink and be thankful to the host! What seems insignificant when you have it, is important when you need it.” -Franz Grillparzer

Ron Kern is the manager of the Ogle County Farm Bureau.