Tag Archives: Farm Bill

Republicans in the House have accused Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of pushing Democrats on the House Agricultural Committee to oppose the House version of the farm bill.

The biggest objection is over proposed changes to the nutrition title. However, ranking member Collin Peterson of Minnesota told the Hagstrom Report that he hadn’t discussed the farm bill with her until last Tuesday evening. Peterson described Pelosi as surprised that Republicans accused her of being behind the Democrats opposition to the farm bill. The House Ag Committee approved the bill on a party-line vote of 26-20, with all Democrats opposed.

Pelosi had issued a statement earlier criticizing the farm bill. However, Peterson said he’d told her they would talk about the bill when he had something to tell her, and that was the Tuesday before the markup. Peterson says Pelosi was not aware of the detailed politics in the committee Democrats’ opposition to the bill. Peterson says he’s seen evidence that the retiring Speaker of the House,

Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, is behind the changes to the nutrition title, which attach work requirements to the food stamp program. He says Ryan sees it as his welfare reform bill before he leaves Congress. Peterson says, “The Speaker put this in the bill because he couldn’t get anything else done with welfare reform.”

Washington, D.C. – The House Agriculture Committee today passed out of committee the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R.2)  – critical legislation to address the economic challenges facing the nation’s farmers and ranchers, while making historic investments in opportunities for SNAP recipients. Upon passage, Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) issued the below remarks:

“Today’s vote was about America’s farmers and ranchers. It was about a better future and greater opportunities for SNAP recipients. It was about fulfilling an obligation to lead, rather than standing on the sidelines.

“I’m disappointed that my Democrat colleagues have turned their backs on America’s heartland – that they’ve chosen partisan politics over the three years of bipartisan work in this committee. Democrats halted talks over their objection to requiring work-capable adults to either find employment or receive free training for 20 hours per week. Yet, despite this turn of events, I remain hopeful. When House Democrats pushed a partisan farm bill that raised taxes in 2008 over Republican objections, Republicans worked alongside Democrats to fend off hostile amendments aimed against the legislation on the House floor and worked in conference committee to achieve a bipartisan farm bill. I am hopeful Democrats will not hold the nation’s farmers and ranchers hostage in this process over the SNAP work and training requirements, which will provide SNAP beneficiaries not just a benefit, but a better future that only a job can provide.

“But we’ll continue fighting, we won’t settle for the status quo – because America needs a farm bill. America deserves a farm bill. And I look forward to taking this vote to the people’s House – to debating these policies on the floor and to sharing our vision with the American people. We have cleared this hurdle and will deliver a strong, new farm bill on time.”

Washington,  – At a price tag of well over $800 billion dollars, the farm bill wouldn’t be considered by many to be a lean legislative package. There are, however, nearly a dozen programs in the bill that are increasingly becoming known as the “tiny but mighty” – programs that receive relatively small funding allocations but have historically provided outsize benefits for American family farmers and food producing communities. Despite the penchant on Capitol Hill to celebrate programs that “do more with less,” the draft farm bill released yesterday by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) proposes to slash over $350 million from these twelve hard-working programs. The draft bill would also completely eliminate six of the twelve programs, which have for years served as crucial support to regional food economies and rural conservation and renewable energy efforts.

Many of the tiny but mighty programs are targeted toward strengthening local and regional food systems and ensuring that rural and food producing communities have the tools and resources to capitalize on farm-to-fork economic opportunities. Because most of these programs do not have permanent funding as commodity and crop insurance subsidies do, Congress must actively choose to refund them in each farm bill cycle in order for the programs to continue.

The chart below shows the funding levels of the non-baseline programs of most concern to the sustainable agriculture community, comparing their 2014 Farm Bill funding levels with the levels proposed for the 2018 Farm Bill by the Chairman’s draft bill:

 

While the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is very pleased to see that a few of these programs made it through the gauntlet unscathed – and two even received well-deserved funding increases – we are stunned that the Chairman would choose to completely gut six of these critical and extremely effective programs:

  • Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion ProgramCompetitive grants program that supports a variety of direct-to-consumer, local/regional food projects, including: farmers markets, food hubs, and other food business enterprises that act as intermediaries between producers and consumers.
  • National Organic Cost Share ProgramHelps small and mid-sized organic farm businesses afford certification costs.
  • Risk Management Education Partnership ProgramEstablishes partnerships with local agencies and organizations to help farmers, particularly beginning farmers, understand the risks they face and how to manage those risks on their farms.
  • Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance ProgramFills the financing gap for very small rural businesses by providing loans and grants to local economic development groups, which in turn provide technical services and microloans to start-up rural small business owners.
  • Rural Energy for America ProgramProvides grants and guaranteed loans for planning, development, and implementation of renewable energy production and energy efficiency improvement projects.
  • Value-Added Producer Grants Fosters food and farm entrepreneurship by supporting new and expanding farmer-owned businesses working to increase profitability and capture a larger share of the consumer food dollar.

American family farmers know that healthy farms and strong rural and urban communities alike benefit from investments in local and regional food systems, renewable energy, and entrepreneurship. Without the assistance of the programs listed above, however, many will have no way to access the resources they need to effectively take their businesses to the next level. Eliminating funding for these six programs will not only will it severely hamper the growth of one of agriculture’s most promising industries and take away opportunities for prosperity from American farmers, it will also produce no significant savings in the farm bill for taxpayers.

NSAC urges Congress to not be penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to programs that provide vital services to American families and farmers across the country. We hope that members in both the House and the Senate will see the considerable value (both in impact and in dollars) of these programs, and ensure that the 2018 Farm Bill makes the right choice – to invest in a sustainable and profitable future for American agriculture.

OMAHA (DTN) — Congressmen have been quick to point out 2018 farm income is projected to be less than half of what it was five years ago, but the farm bill draft rolled out Thursday by House Agriculture Committee leadership makes few changes to the safety net for most commodity producers.

Some key changes in the farm bill plan for farmers:

— The Agricultural Risk Coverage program would use crop insurance data to determine county yields. Price Loss Coverage would adjust reference prices when markets improve and allow farmers affected by droughts to update yields. Farmers would also be allowed to change elections for ARC or PLC.

— Marketing loans are maintained and the sugar policy remains the same.

— Crop insurance is held harmless with few or little changes made.

— The Conservation Stewardship Program would end with no new sign-ups and current CSP contracts allowed to expire. To offset some of the losses, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program is beefed up.

The House Agriculture Committee plans to mark up the farm bill next week with partisan battle lines already drawn over job-training requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The key trick for House Agriculture Committee leadership has been to draft a bill that doesn’t spend any more money than the 2014 legislation. Despite the constraints, the bill seeks to maintain key programs to promote U.S. agricultural products overseas. The bill also adds investment for livestock disease preparation, including setting aside $150 million to create a new livestock vaccine bank to help prevent the spread of major contagious livestock diseases.

The new bill comes as the Trump administration is also considering whether to provide trade-offset payments to farmers affected by the ongoing trade disputes between the U.S. and China, as well as the renegotiation from the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump met with several Republican governors and senators Thursday at the White House to discuss agriculture and trade.

The latest USDA forecasts — released just before the Chinese tariff battle heated up — show overall net farm income is projected at $59.5 billion in 2018, down from a high of $123.8 billion in 2013. If the numbers hold, it would be the lowest farm income levels since 2006.

OVERHAULING DAIRY SAFETY NET

Farm income changes vary by commodity, but dairy farmers are projected to see a 19% income decline this year. The fourth year of low prices is leading to a crisis among dairy farmers.

“There’s too much milk and not enough processing, basically,” said Patti Edelburg, a Wisconsin dairy farmer and vice president of the National Farmers Union. “The supply is way over demand, and milk is a product you have to sell. You can store corn for quite a while, where milk is obviously a perishable product, and you have to sell it.”

Dairy farmers could be the big winners in new commodity programs. The much-panned Margin Protection Program is overhauled and renamed the Dairy Risk Management (DRM) program. The changes, influenced heavily by House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., build on an $880 million boost in funding for the dairy safety net passed in the farm bill. Under the plan, the coverage costs for DRM would be 9 cents per hundredweight on the first 5 million pounds of milk covered.

“It’s kind of a Band-Aid,” Edelburg said. “I’m not sure it’s enough to stop a lot. It will bring in some extra cash, but prices really need to change to make dairy farming a lot more viable … I mean, this is a good start, but a lot more needs to be done on dairy.”

Edelburg noted dairy farmers are getting suicide prevention hotline letters inserted with their milk checks. Wisconsin saw more than 500 dairy farms close last year alone.

Even as trade negotiators seek to crack the wall on Canada’s supply-management system for dairy, Edelburg said Wisconsin farmers have been meeting and learning from Ontario, Canada, about the Canadian system. U.S. farmers’ all-milk price is under $16 per cwt while their Canadian counterparts are averaging $27 per cwt.

“If you really want to have a control on the price, you have to have some kind of supply management in there,” Edelburg said. “There are just too many processors against it.”

SNAP BATTLE ONGOING

Much of the battle over the farm bill is already concentrated on nutrition programs. House Republicans are tightening up rules for people defined as able-bodied without dependents, a population that includes roughly 3.5 million people. The farm bill would prevent states from getting work and job-training exemptions for those people. At the same time, the GOP is planning to expand investment in federal job-training programs.

As House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, rolls out his bill, he’s taking his case to the public that tighter work requirements for SNAP recipients will improve their quality of life. Conaway shot a video released earlier this week and he co-wrote an op-ed in USA Today, highlighting the link between poverty and lack of job skills. Conaway’s press team also sent out an editorial Thursday by the Wall Street Journal championing that work and job-training requirements would “help the able-bodied get off the dole.”

Peterson and other House Democrats have sharply criticized the GOP plan for SNAP. Peterson has gone to social program offices in Minnesota and North Dakota, and he said his takeaway is the GOP plan “will not work and is a waste of money.” Peterson said the federal government now spends money on 200,000 job-training slots, but would increase those slots to up to 3 million people.

The SNAP plan would essentially require people who draw $80 to $130 or so in SNAP per month to go to 20 hours a week of job training. “Basically, it’s designed to be a hassle factor so people will just drop out of the program,” Peterson said earlier this week. “That’s basically, from what I can tell, the purpose of it.”

The Senate also is unlikely to do anything similar. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has no plans to include more job-training requirements in the Senate bill. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said such plans would disrupt the bipartisan focus needed to pass a farm bill in the Senate.

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, the House Agriculture Committee introduced the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2). The bill helps address the economic challenges facing farmers and ranchers, while making historic investments in opportunities for SNAP recipients. Across the country, members continue offering their praise and support for the 2018 Farm Bill. Several of these members’ comments are included below:

“Introduction of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 marks the culmination of years of hard work by the House Agriculture Committee, which has delivered a product that includes many important reforms. I am particularly proud of the reforms put forth for the SNAP program. Since 2015, the subcommittee has hosted 21 hearings on SNAP and received testimony from more than 80 witnesses on how to strengthen the program, while working in earnest toward the goal of ending hunger in America. While the bill continues SNAP assistance to our most vulnerable, the legislation also provides new opportunities for individuals who have been marginalized by lack of education or gainful employment. Today’s bill is about ensuring this critical safety net remains a viable program for years to come, especially for those who need it most.” – Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-05)

“The American farmer is the greatest anti-poverty program the world has ever seen. Farmers are hurting though, and I have three priorities for this Farm Bill: to protect crop insurance, to increase market development abroad through trade and market access programs, and to affirm and fund our commitment to agricultural research, like the great work being done at Washington State University in my district. I’m proud to say that all three of these priorities are reflected in this bill and will continue to support Eastern Washington farmers and the food security they provide our country and the world.” – House GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05)

“After three years of hearings, research, and working with stakeholders, I’m proud to support this Farm Bill, which strengthens our nation’s food security and makes meaningful reforms to our social safety net. Introducing work and education requirements for physically and mentally able-bodied adults makes sure those who truly need assistance get it, and that job training or educational opportunities are available for everyone. There are more than 6 million job openings in the United States right now. We need to make sure our social safety net provides a pathway for relevant and useful job training so those jobs can be filled and American families can prosper.” – Rep. Bob Gibbs (OH-07)

“The Agriculture Committee is releasing a new farm bill. It includes reforms to help people on the SNAP program who are able to work find work, and start taking those steps toward making a good living. In states like Kansas and Maine, we have seen that an approach combining work requirements with work supports—like apprenticeships and skills training—has phenomenal success. This is going to help get more Americans out of poverty, and it’s going to help more Americans get into the workforce, while maintaining support for those in need. So I want to commend Chairman Conaway for his work. We look forward to making more progress on this agenda in the weeks ahead. And this was a critical component of our Better Way agenda that we’re excited about executing.” – Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (WI-01)

“SNAP provides an important safety net for many Americans, but I want it to be an on-ramp to success, not a lifestyle for work-capable adults. The new Farm Bill makes reasonable and streamlined changes to eligibility requirements that will result in more adults who are ready for the workforce. These changes will help people break out of the cycle of poverty and climb the economic ladder.”
 – Rep. Ralph Abraham (LA-05)

“We have a lot more work to get done, from welfare to work, making sure people are getting into the workforce. We’ll roll out with the farm bill showing that.” – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23)

“Today is the first step toward getting a five-year Farm Bill passed before the next fiscal year begins in September. Farmers, especially in Missouri, have been struggling with low prices over the past few seasons, and it’s essential we get this bill done in time to ensure they can continue to produce an abundance of food for the entire world. This reauthorization also continues to feed those in need, modernize SNAP eligibility requirements, and make a historic investment in job training programs for able-bodied adults receiving assistance through the SNAP program. I look forward to marking up next week’s Farm Bill with a full and open amendment process.” – Rep. Vicky Hartzler (MO-04)

“Producers across America and the 1st District of Arkansas feed and clothe millions here and around the world. With this task comes uncontrollable variables and risks. Today we revealed a new Farm Bill, a step forward in investing in not only our farmers but our nation’s future and food security.” – Rep. Rick Crawford (AR-01)

“The Farm Bill provides our farmers and ranchers the resources they need to expand our nation’s robust agriculture economy. … I thank Chairman Conaway for his leadership and look forward to next week’s mark-up. My hope is that this Farm Bill passes with bipartisan support through the Committee and on the House floor.”
– Rep. Don Bacon (NE-02)

“This has been a long time coming, and I am thrilled to have this bill released, and for it to be considered by the committee in the near future. I have heard my producers loud and clear. They want certainty; they want assurance that Washington is still working for them, this bill proves that we are listening,” 
– Rep. Roger Marshall (KS-01)

“I am pleased that the Farm Bill introduced today contains many provisions that will directly help Upstate New York farmers. …We need to ensure our government is providing the resources and support our Upstate farmers need to survive and prosper. Today’s bill that was introduced is a positive first step and I look forward to improving it even more as it moves through the legislative process.”
 – Rep. John Faso (NY-19)

“I am pleased to see the next Farm Bill introduced and filed today. A comprehensive Farm Bill is critical in supporting the efforts of our country’s hardworking farmers and ranchers to provide the most cost effective, plentiful, and safest food supply in the world. This legislation builds off the strengths of the 2014 Farm Bill and represents the best safety net for agricultural producers in challenging economic times.” – Rep. Frank Lucas (OK-3)

“For the last three years, Members of the Agriculture Committee have been working around the clock to craft a farm bill that meets the unique needs of our agriculture sector and rural America. … This legislation also strengthens our nation’s nutrition programs to assist those who struggle to put food on the table, while helping people gain the skills necessary to secure well-paying jobs and achieve the American Dream.” – Rep. Austin Scott (GA-08)

“As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, we’ve spent the past three years working in Congress working to advance a strong Farm Bill. Farm policy is not created for the good years, it’s created for the bad ones. … This bill today ensures they have the tools they need to weather these difficult years, manage risk, and stay competitive. Importantly, the bill also includes critical infrastructure resources for our rural America, such as new incentives to bring more broadband providers to remote areas – something I’ve worked very hard to secure. From the start, I said this committee’s bill should reflect the priorities of rural America, and now the public can examine the full text of this bill as the discussion moves forward.” – Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-01)

“The 2018 Farm Bill seeks to strengthen the farm safety net and makes other important improvements to current law that will benefit our rural communities, improve wildlife habitat, and enhance the environment. Additionally, H.R. 2 streamlines and reduces regulatory burdens, significantly improves access to rural broadband, helps communities meet the challenges of the opioid crises, and maintains vital nutrition assistance for those who truly need it while increasing opportunities for these recipients to receive workforce training, get a job and improve their lives. This Farm Bill is the result of three years of legislative work, and I am proud to stand alongside my colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee to put forth this common-sense bill.” – Rep. David Rouzer (NC-07)

“It is a good day for everyone who works in acres and not hours. I applaud Chairman Conaway and his staff for all their hard work in drafting the 2018 Agriculture and Nutrition Act. The countless meetings and listening sessions across the country have produced legislation that everyone can support. The investments in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will strengthen this program by providing food and job security for all who want to achieve economic independence. The farm bill introduced in committee provides certainty and assurances to America’s farmers and ranchers that will enable them to continue feeding the country and the world.” 
– Rep. Ted Yoho (FL-03)

“Building on the economic success we’ve had as a result of tax reform, this legislation also establishes real work requirements for our nutrition programs. While our work on this bill has been ongoing for some time, introduction is a big step in the right direction. I look forward to continuing to work with the Agriculture Committee to advance this legislation.” 
– Rep. Kristi Noem (SD-AL)

“Our producers deserve to be supported with a strong Farm Bill, and I am pleased to see provisions included that will bring relief to North Dakotans. By fixing the ARC program, and maintaining the crop insurance and livestock forage programs, our agriculture community will benefit from the legislation. I will continue to work with the Agriculture Committee on the bill and am confident it will move swiftly through the full House and Senate.” – Rep. Kevin Cramer (ND-AL)

“However you’ve thought about the Farm Bill in the past, at first glance this text appears to include several seriously beneficial changes. In particular, conservative Members of Congress can be relieved that the Committee stuck with its commitment to ensuring that the nutrition program includes more than 35 improvements, including by instituting meaningful work requirements so that heads of households have real incentives to remain productive members of society. … From the regulatory standpoint, farmers and forestry win in this package, which means rural America wins as well. Congressman Conaway should be commended for the very tough task of introducing a smarter Farm Bill, and I look forward to reviewing the details with my constituents.” – Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ-04)

“With this farm bill, we have an opportunity to take meaningful steps forward in addressing the problems behind severe, uncontrollable wildfires. We look forward to working with the House Agriculture Committee and other Members to ensure that we will not end up having the Schumer fires of 2018 on our hands.”
 – Rep. Rob Bishop (UT-01)

“I am glad to see substantial investment for broadband and forestry reforms included in the recently released text of the Farm Bill. In Colorado’s Third Congressional District, many rural families and businesses still do not have access to the resources they need to prosper. Statewide, wildfires threaten our communities. Targeted investments in broadband and additional tools for the Forest Service will not only ensure that those living in rural areas have more opportunities to succeed, but will also go to great lengths to protect our land and property from dangerous wildfires. I commend Chairman Conway for his good work and I look forward to advancing this legislation in the coming weeks.” – Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-03)

“The Farm Bill draft released today shows that the legislation touches on all of the priorities I heard from growers and producers during my Farm Bill tour throughout Central Washington last week, and I commend Chairman Conaway for his hard work. It reauthorizes vital trade and agricultural export promotion programs. Also included in the bill is a boost to the very important research programs by fully funding the Specially Crop Research Initiative and increased funding for Specialty Crop Block Grants, which over the years have proved very beneficial to the state of Washington. I look forward to reviewing the final legislation.” – Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-04)

“I applaud Chairman Conaway and the House Committee on Agriculture for putting forward a Farm Bill which addresses many of the top concerns of Kansans including $1.1 billion for broadband infrastructure, amendments to the Endangered Species Act which will streamline pesticide regulations, and protecting crop insurance for our farmers. I also look forward to building on the improvements made to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program included in the bill.”
 – Rep. Ron Estes (KS-04)

“Alleviating the immense pressure put on our agriculture industry by removing unnecessary and duplicative regulations is a top priority. I look forward to carefully reviewing the recently released Farm Bill and to ensuring the priorities of our farmers, ranchers and those in the forestry industry are well represented in these discussions.” – Rep. Mike Johnson (LA-04)

“The Farm Bill is essential to ensuring Oklahoma’s farmers have the tools they need to feed our country and the world. Many of its programs are crucial to maintain and strengthen our country’s agricultural exports, sustain the rare trade surplus for agricultural products, and provide farmers and ranchers credit in trying times. I’m looking forward to working alongside my colleagues on the Agriculture Committee to pass a strong Farm Bill.”
 – Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK-02)

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Today the House Agriculture Committee introduced the 2018 Farm Bill. Congressman Roger Marshall made this piece of legislation his number one priority even before his election. Having been appointed to the House Agriculture Committee, Dr. Marshall is pleased to give a positive report and outlook for the success of this critical piece of legislation for Kansas.

“This has been a long time coming, and I am thrilled to have this bill released, and for it to be considered by the committee in the near future.  I have heard my producers loud and clear. They want certainty; they want assurance that Washington is still working for them, this bill proves that we are listening,” Rep. Marshall said.

The 2018 Farm Bill protects crop insurance, reduces regulatory burdens, invests in rural broadband, ensures we are protecting the health of our livestock and helps out our beginning farmers and ranchers who are starting out during already tough times.

“Roger and I have worked side-by-side on this legislation, and I am thankful for his dedication and leadership,” The Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Mike Conaway said. “Our bill will help provide much-needed certainty to our producers while helping to address the challenges in farm country, including producers in Kansas. I look forward to working with him to move this bill through committee and across the House floor.”

This bill also recognizes the importance of trade amid escalating trade tensions. The 2018 Farm Bill strengthens our safety net and assistance to farmers affected by unfair trading practices and restores funding that promotes opening new markets.

“In my first year, I held more than 70 town halls and roundtables and in every single one of them we discussed the importance of this Farm Bill,” Rep. Marshall said. “I came to Washington to be a strong voice on the Ag committee for our producers. I believe this bill shows that I worked very hard to deliver on that promise.”

For more on this bill go to: https://agriculture.house.gov/farmbill/

Washington, DC,  – Today, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) joined with a broad coalition of farm organizations – including National Farmers Union, Rural Advancement Foundation International, and the National Young Farmers Coalition, among others – and agricultural lenders on a letter urging Congress to oppose a proposed across-the-board increase to Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan limits in the upcoming farm bill. The 19 signatories caution Congress that such an increase would seriously threaten beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers’ ability to access FSA loans, and urge that they take a more prudent and targeted approach.

“Congress’ first priority when considering possible changes to FSA loan programs should be to do no harm,” said Juli Obudzinski, Deputy Policy Director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “FSA is the lender of first opportunity and last resort for family farmers and ranchers, and Congress should be doing everything in their power to ensure that this critical source of funding remains accessible to our most in-need producers.”

Discussions about whether and how to change FSA lending programs have increased on Capitol Hill over the last few years as commodity prices have remained low, and Congress has struggled to find better risk management solutions for farmers. The approach of the 2018 Farm Bill has accelerated these conversations, and one proposal that has received particular attention has been to increase the statutory limits on FSA loan amounts.

In their letter to Congress, the undersigned organizations outline how increasing statutory limits on FSA loans without a more targeted approach could seriously undermine credit availability for beginning farmers and others who struggle to access financing in the private financial market. The letter states:

“Together, we represent over 250 farm organizations and community lenders that work directly with family farmers and ranchers, including beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and others underserved by commercial lenders and for whom FSA loans are critical. These are the very farmers who will be impacted the most by any loan limit increase, and their concerns must be both considered and addressed in any debate.”

Increasing FSA loan limits will ultimately lead to FSA making fewer and larger loans – increasing the opportunity for larger, more established farms to receive funds, and fundamentally reducing credit availability to the small and mid-scale farms for which the program is intended.

“USDA loans are a critical part of the farm safety net and often serve as a first-access point to farmers with limited capital or credit history,” said Obudzinski. “Since the passage of the very first farm bill, these loans have filled an important gap in financing for those unable to secure credit in the private market, particularly America’s small and mid-size family farms, and beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers.”

In order to ensure our family farmers have a strong farm safety net in the years to come, any policy changes to FSA loan programs made in the next farm bill must be measured against current program usage and demand, historical funding levels, and performance targets.

Looking at FSA loan data from the last few years, one can see that additional funding, notnecessarily larger loan limits, is what is needed to fill the farm loan funding gap and best serve our nation’s producers. For example, in recent years demand for FSA loans has well exceeded available funding for almost all loan programs at the current statutory limits. The average loan amount for both direct and guaranteed loans is also currently far below the current statutory loan cap. According to a recent analysis of FSA lending trends, the average FSA loan amount last year was actually 3 percent smaller than 2016, with Guaranteed Operating Loans (GOL) experiencing the largest decrease (8 percent).

Taken in aggregate, the data on FSA loan programs overwhelmingly shows that most of the programs are currently able to address the credit needs of the vast majority of borrowers, with the exception of Direct Farm Ownership loans – which the letter argues should be adjusted to account for real estate inflation in recent years. The organizations signed on to the FSA loan letter are united in urging Congress not to put beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers at risk in order to increase the size of the largest loans to well-established operations, which have a better chance of securing credit in the private market. FSA loans were designed to support our nation’s most in-need producers, and we hope that Congress will maintain the integrity and intention of this program as they craft the 2018 Farm Bill.

Washington, D.C —With Congress planning to write a new farm bill in the coming months, the Independent Community Bankers of America® (ICBA) today released a white paper with its principles for a new multi-year farm bill. ICBA’s white paper details its community banker-inspired farm policy reforms as lawmakers work to replace the current bill expiring Sept. 30.

“ICBA believes a new farm bill is vitally important to our nation’s farmers and ranchers and the community bankers who work so closely with them,” ICBA President and CEO Camden R. Fine said. “A new farm bill provides a multi-year framework for farmers and their community bank lenders to engage in longer-term business planning, and it offers an essential safety net of risk-management tools.”

ICBA’s “Focus on Farm Policy” white paper outlines key agricultural focus areas:

  • Adequately Fund Commodity Programs and Crop Insurance, which are key risk-management tools that enable producers to obtain farm loans.
  • Enhance the USDA’s Farm Loan Programs—which provided more than $7.7 billion in loans for producers in 2017 and supported 42,000 farmers and ranchers—by increasing loan limits, providing greater flexibility for loan approvals, and eliminating unnecessary regulatory burdens.
  • Sustain USDA Rural Development Programs by maintaining the USDA’s focus on guaranteed loan programs and preserving funding for programs such as the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program for small businesses.
  • Reform the Farm Credit System, which has experienced dramatic growth while sharply reducing service to family farmers, to ensure this government-sponsored enterprise remains focused on serving farmers and does not venture into broad non-farm lending activities.
  • ICBA’s Five Key Farm Bill Principles, which include ample funding, regulatory relief, fair treatment of all stakeholders, and more.

Click here to access ICBA’s “Focus on Farm Policy” white paper.

About ICBA

The Independent Community Bankers of America®, the nation’s voice for nearly 5,700 community banks of all sizes and charter types, is dedicated exclusively to representing the interests of the community banking industry and its membership through effective advocacy, best-in-class education and high-quality products and services. For more information, visit ICBA’s website at www.icba.org.

MANHATTAN, Kan. — With talks underway in the nation’s capital on the 2018 Farm Bill, one of the topics under discussion is SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. The program is considered the nation’s first line of defense against hunger in communities large and small, and is funded through the farm bill.

“SNAP provides access to healthy food and nutrition education for low-income families and individuals across the U.S. and in Kansas,” said Sandy Procter, extension specialist and assistant professor in Kansas State University’s Department of Food, Nutrition, Dietetics and Health. “It benefits elderly persons, low income persons even if they are working, unemployed households and households with disabled persons. It’s been called ‘the cornerstone of the nation’s nutrition safety net’ and effectively prevents hunger and household food insecurity in Kansas and the U.S.”

With a total federal outlay of $70.8 billion in fiscal year 2016, SNAP accounted for 51 percent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual budget, according to a January, 2018 USDA-Economic Research Service report. About 14 percent of all Americans participated in the program each month in 2016.

A five-year study showed that 15.8 percent of SNAP participants across the country lived in rural areas, 15.3 percent in small towns, and 12.6 percent lived in larger metropolitan areas, according to the Food Research and Action Center, a nonprofit organization focused on poverty-related hunger.

The study also showed that 8.6 percent of Kansas SNAP recipients lived in rural areas, 11.2 percent lived in small towns and 8.6 percent were in metropolitan areas.

“SNAP benefits are important to communities – big and small, urban and rural,” said Procter, who coordinates the Kansas SNAP Education program.

With a focus on improving the nutritional health of low-income Kansans, she and a team of K-State Research and extension family and consumer science agents, specialists and nutrition educators work with people who qualify for or receive SNAP benefits on such topics as cooking with limited resources, understanding food labels, food safety, meal planning, nutrition and obesity prevention. The program is active in 75 of Kansas’s 105 counties.

Procter said a common misunderstanding about SNAP is that people stay on food assistance for long periods of time, but research shows that 50 percent of all new SNAP recipients will leave the program within nine months as they become more financially stable.

“According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, each $1 billion of retail generated by SNAP creates $340 million in farm production, $110 million in farm value-added and 3,300 farm jobs,” she said. “Additionally, every $1 billion of SNAP benefits creates 8,900 to 17,900 full-time jobs.”

“I think it is important to know that roughly 80 percent of the Farm Bill is funding for nutrition-related programs,” said Procter, adding that such programs as SNAP, WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and 13 others, are not only important to those who receive the benefits, but also to all communities due to the economic benefits they provide across the U.S.

Ranking House Agriculture Committee Democrat Collin Peterson says the committee plans to mark up the farm bill on March 20th, but a revolt over food stamp provisions could stop the bill from moving forward.

The Hagstrom Report says Peterson and Committee Chairman Mike Conaway had “hit an impasse” regarding the nutrition title, and a spokesperson for Conaway could not confirm the March 20th mark up date. Conaway’s office does say that moving the bill forward by the end of the first quarter of 2018 “remains the goal,” adding that the Chairman’s staff is “working closely” with those across the aisle to “try and get there.” Peterson said the Republican proposal regarding nutrition is similar to what killed the current farm bill the first time it came to the House floor in 2013.

Meanwhile, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts says the Senate will not make any significant changes to the bill. The Senate is expected to consider it’s version of the bill in committee next month.