A Busy Thursday for Ag Groups

Farm groups were not sending the same message to members of Congress before the farm-only farm bill vote Thursday. Despite the urging of House Speaker John Boehner and Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas - some groups - including the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union - asked members of Congress to vote against final passage of the attempt to split the farm bill and end permanent law provisions for agriculture. Other farm groups did encourage members to vote yes - though reluctantly in some cases. National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson wrote that the group disagreed with the policies of the legislation and was dismayed with the process that led to the sad situation. But she said NCGA saw no other way to move the farm bill to conference with the Senate. As a result - Johnson urged members of the House to approve the bill. But she stressed the request did not reflect NCGA's approval of the bill's contents or the manner in which it came to the floor. The National Pork Producers Council took a slightly different approach - with CEO Neil Dierks stating that NPPC and its state pork producer affiliates wouldn't have signed on to the letter sent on July 2nd had they realized a statement of opposition to splitting the nutrition title from the House Farm Bill had been added. Dierks said NPPC and its affiliates would support the removal of the nutrition title if it led to passage of a new farm bill - which he called imperative to America's pork producers. Even after the House approved the stripped down version of the farm bill - the response from ag groups varied.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said his group had hoped the farm bill would not be split - nor permanent law repealed. He said the group will now focus its efforts on working with lawmakers to deliver a farm bill to the President's desk for his signature by September. According to Stallman - the next steps for the bill are unknown - but Farm Bureau looks forward to moving ahead with fundamental farm policy legislation and will be working with both sides of the aisle and both Chambers of Congress to ensure passage of a new five-year farm bill.

Roger Johnson - National Farmers Union President - said Thursday's partisan vote to pass the farm bill apart from the nutrition title undermines the long-time coalition of support for a unified, comprehensive farm bill that has historically been written on a bipartisan basis. Johnson said NFU will continue to do all it can to get a reasonable bill through the conference process. For NFU - Johnson said any final legislation must continue existing permanent law provisions and include meaningful safety net protections for family farmers facing difficult times and the food insecure.

The American Soybean Association was relieved to see the House approve a farm bill - but President Danny Murphy said their approval of a partial bill will mean nothing if a bill doesn't emerge from conference that both chambers will pass. ASA is calling on the House and Senate to work in a bipartisan manner to craft a conference bill that can pass both chambers and be signed by President Obama before existing authorities expire on September 30th. Murphy said ASA is opposed to the replacement of permanent law by whatever legislation may result from this process. By only making Title I of a new farm bill permanent - he noted other titles - including conservation, research, energy and trade - would risk not being reauthorized when the bill expires after five years. Murphy said the group is also concerned that Title I of a new bill could include provisions that would distort plantings and production in years of low prices - and that it would be extremely difficult to change these provisions if the legislation were made permanent.

National Sorghum Producers Chairman Terry Swanson said - while the road leading to House passage of a split version of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 was unconventional - NSP supports the revised bill and thanks the members of the U.S. House for passing the measure. Swanson said NSP will stand behind the leadership of House Ag Chair Frank Lucas and his decision to move forward in this way as a means to get a bill to conference that will ultimately result in a comprehensive, five-year farm bill.

The National Cotton Council says House action on new farm legislation is an important step that will hopefully lead to successful and timely development of critically important new multi-year legislation. The U.S. cotton industry is thankful for the inclusion of the Stacked Income Protection Plan - or STAX - and transition payments to assist cotton producers and their lenders while USDA's Risk Management Agency completes the task of fully implementing the new program. NCC Chairman Jimmy Dodson also notes the House legislation addresses the entire cotton industry's interests by including provisions that assist U.S. textile manufacturers, extend the marketing assistance loan and adjusted world price redemption process, continue conservation programs, extend the highly successful Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program and extend the extra-long staple cotton program.

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance welcomed House passage of the revised farm bill as the next step to enacting a five-year plan for federal agriculture policy. The group is pleased that the House and Senate bills both address many of the critical priorities outlined by the alliance and continue the support of specialty crops established in the 2008 Farm Bill.

National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Scott George called the separation of the nutrition title from the farm bill an unprecedented step - but was pleased to see cattlemen and women a step closer to final legislation that provides certainty for producers and incorporates priorities important to the cattle industry. George said NCBA is pleased that the legislation includes disaster programs, authorizes conservation programs important to cattle producers and contains language to prevent USDA from moving forward on the proposed GIPSA rule from the 2008 Farm Bill. George said there are also important amendments included which rein in the Environmental Protection Agency. He said the amendments provide regulatory relief to cattle producers, prevent EPA from releasing personal producer information to third parties and prohibit EPA from regulating forest roads under the Clean Water Act.

Based on the unprecedented action of the House - National Association of Conservation Districts President Earl Garber says his group is hopeful the farm bill process will move forward. Garber urged the House and Senate to come together to find a common ground that will benefit the future of our natural resource base. He said the nation's farmers and landowners deserve to have long-term certainty to effectively and efficiently manage their land, resources and businesses for the years ahead.

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