Panelists at Farm Journal Forum 2013 reveal the potential outcome of everything from insurance limits to food stamps
Two leading lobbyists for farm groups last week revealed some details about the potential outcome of negotiations between House and Senate conferees over a farm bill.
The panelists—Chandler Goule, vice president of government relations for the National Farmers Union, and Mary Kay Thatcher, director of public policy for American Farm Bureau Federation—agreed that conferees have already worked through many of the most controversial sections of the competing House and Senate bills. The discussion was moderated by Sara Wyant, editor of Agri-Pulse.
The lobbyists said they are hopeful that Congress will produce a farm bill soon. Goule remains optimistic Congress will complete work this year, even though the House adjourns on Friday. Thatcher thinks the more likely outcome is that the farm bill gets rolled up into a deficit reduction bill that Congress needs to enact to avoid another government shutdown on Jan. 15.
Goule said that based on his conversations with House and Senate staffers, conferees have completed their work on the credit, research and conservation titles within the massive bill, which would authorize farm programs for another five years. The lobbyists agreed that Congress is likely to settle closer to the Senate’s cuts in food stamps, with cuts rumored to be in the neighborhood of $8 billion to $12 billion.
"SNAP is still an issue. But it’s not the big issue—that’s the fighting between the commodity groups," said Goule, adding that conferees are fielding letters from groups representing producers of various crops that would prefer different approaches to shallow-loss insurance.
Hear comments from Thatcher and Goule on the farm bill's progress:
Several other key issues—means-testing crop insurance and tying insurance to compliance with conservation—have yet to be decided. Thatcher thinks a likely outcome will be to drop means-testing in favor of linking to conservation programs. "At least that what we hope happens," she said.
Goule, on the other hand, hopes that Congress addresses the perceived public policy program that some very large producers have received very large farm insurance payments.
Hear more about payment limits:
The lobbyists shared differing opinions about several other issues, including country-of-origin labeling for livestock and changes in U.S. food aid. But they wholeheartedly agreed that EPA’s proposal to reduce next year’s ethanol mandate was a bad decision. If it goes through, "there will be a lawsuit," Thatcher emphatically predicted.
More on country-of-origin labeling: