The farmers of the American Soybean Association (ASA) congratulated conferees from the House and Senate as the final version of the much-anticipated farm bill was filed with the House clerk tonight and awaits action on the floor as soon as Wednesday.
ASA supports the bill, which provides for multiple soybean farmer priorities, most notably a flexible farm safety net that includes a choice between price-based and revenue-based risk management tools and maintains the decoupling of payments under both programs from current planted acreage.
“This has been a trying process to be sure, but we think that through it all, the conferees and their leadership have produced a framework that will serve the best interests of soybean farmers,” said Ray Gaesser, ASA President and farmer from Corning, Iowa. “Chairwoman Stabenow, Chairman Lucas and Ranking Members Cochran and Peterson deserve great credit and our sincere thanks for pushing this bill to the finish line. We are grateful for that hard work and perseverance, and we call on the House and the Senate to vote “yes” and bring the process to a conclusion.”
The bill includes a choice between an ASA-supported revenue program that covers both price and yield losses with county and farm level options, and a price support program which allows the optional purchase of insurance coverage under a Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO). The bill also eliminates controversial Direct Payments while maintaining decoupled farm support programs that will minimize the possibility of planting and production distortions that could trigger new WTO challenges. The language in Title 1 allows producers to choose between maintaining existing crop acreage base or reallocating their current base acreage to reflect average acres planted to covered commodities in 2009-2012.
“The bill establishes practical risk management programs that will protect us in difficult times. That’s been our top priority from day one,” said Gaesser. “But beyond that, we support this bill because it strengthens crop insurance; includes a streamlining and optimizing of conservation programs; funds critical energy and agricultural research initiatives; and invests in the trade development programs that are so critical to the soybean industry.”
On crop insurance, the bill makes enterprise units permanent, allows growers to purchase enterprise unit coverage for both irrigated and dryland crops, authorizes a new Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO), and will help to strengthen the next generation of agriculture by providing a 10 percent increase in premium support to beginning farmers and ranchers.
“Make no mistake, this bill represents a reform to the farm program,” added Gaesser. “It will make the programs on which we depend more relevant and more defensible, but it will also prevent those programs from distorting planting decisions and potentially impacting the marketplace.”
The bill also secures several other ASA priorities, including agricultural research programs like the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR); the export promotion work done by the Foreign Market Development (FMD) and Market Access Program (MAP) on which soybeans depend as the nation’s top farm export; and key energy programs, including the Biodiesel Education Program and a strengthened Biobased Markets Program. Additionally, the bill consolidates 23 previous conservation programs into 13, while focusing conservation efforts on working lands.
“In addition to the bill’s victories for soybean farmers, it is important to note what the bill does for the country as a whole,” said Gaesser. “The bill still provides for those in need of food assistance by preserving the decades-old balance and partnership between farm and nutrition programs that has seen farm legislation through in years past. The bill also addresses our nation’s budgetary issues by cutting $24 billion over ten years, making agriculture the only industry sector that has come together despite its differences and contributed to deficit reduction.
“The bill is a compromise,” Gaesser added. “It ensures the continued success of American agriculture, and we encourage both the House and the Senate to pass it quickly.”
The bill now awaits action by the full House, which could come as soon as Wednesday.