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New farm bill affects state and Pierce County

By Staff | Jul 13, 2012

A new national farm bill that will set agricultural and food policies in the United States passed 64-35 in the Senate, and is currently being worked on in the House of Representatives. This is the newest in a series of bills that must be reauthorized every five years.

Provisions in the new bill, dubbed the “Agricultural Reform, Food and Job Act”, will replace the 2007 farm bill, which will expire in September of this year.

Tim McKay, the manager of the Rugby Elevator, says the bill is needed because, among other provisions the Senate passed and the House is proposing, it will bolster crop insurance.

North Dakota Farmers Union president Elwood “Woody” Barth says they are satisfied with the Senate’s incarnation of the bill.

“[It] goes a long way to make sure that farmers and ranchers do what they do best,” Barth said.

North Dakota Farm Bureau president Doyle Johannes said that with the exception of tying conservation to insurance, they too are satisfied with the Senate version of the bill. He also said that as long as the final product maintains crop insurance, it’s a good thing for agriculture in this state.

Johannes said that North Dakota needs the new farm bill passed before the 2007 provisions expire.

“The longer we kick this can down the road, things won’t get any better,” Johannes said.

Both the Senate and the House so far have agreed on keeping sugar and dairy programs in place, and eliminating direct cash payments, which has been around since the ’90s.

The Senate provisions aid in risk management, help farmers and ranchers out if there is a disaster, and enhance crop insurance. It continues the Livestock Assistance Programs in place for ranchers who have lost livestock due to weather-related disasters. It funds research programs for land grant universities, and provides assistance to the Devils Lake basin through a land purchase program that is strictly voluntary (The Prairie Star).

The Senate provisions also add two new things, the first being an Agricultural Risk Coverage program, or ARC, that would help producers manage losses. There will be a means to establish a renewable energy program, particularly ethanol and blender pumps.

With the Senate provisions, billions of dollars will go toward crop insurance, school lunch programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and other programs. The Senate version of the bill will save $23 billion, with $6 billion coming from conservation programs and $15 billion coming from cuts.

The House Agricultural Committee, led by Rep. Frank Lucas (R- Okla.) and working in cooperation with Rep. Collin Peterson (D- Minn.), is working on efforts to change the bill in order to reach a compromise. So far there are over 90 amendments to the bill.

The committee’s version of the bill would save over $35 billion over 10 years, would have a $16 billion food stamp package that imposes income and asset tests for those trying to qualify for food stamps.

It also offers protections against price declines. If prices were to fall below set numbers for 5 months, then payments would be made on no more than 85% of the target price. It trims the Senate’s ARC plan by insisting on a 15% deductible, and measures losses based on countywide indexes rather than individual farms (politico.com).

The deadline for both houses of Congress to approve or vote down the bill is September 30.

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