When Congress reconvenes in September, it’s will have a lot of issues to discuss, but leaders writing the farm bill are hoping to complete action on a new 5-year farm plan this year.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, said she and committee chair Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) are focused on coming together to get the farm bill completed.
On the House side, the ag committee has been holding field hearings across the country to get input from farmers.
At a panel hearing at Farmfest in Morgan, Minn., the committee heard testimony on how the farm bill needs to have an adequate safety net; however, committee chair Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Tx.) said that will mean more of a tweak than an overhaul.
He said the three main changes will be to change cotton into Title I, address the Margin Protection Program (MPP) for milk, and the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) county payment “scheme.”
Livestock producers asked for a $150 million in foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank, which the committee is looking for funding.
“We can have access to the vaccines we need in case an outbreak was to happen in the United States,” said Krist Wollum, president of the Minnesota Cattlemen’s Association. “If some type of event like that were to happen in the U.S., we would be facing basically an end to our exports.”
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) was surprised with testimony that crop insurance is more important than the Title I or increasing reference prices.
“People are being realistic and realize we don’t have a lot of money to do what needs to be done and they’re going to protect the most important thing and that’s crop insurance,” said Peterson.
Committee members stressed the importance of keeping the nutrition programs in the farm bill or they say it will be nearly impossible to get the support to pass it in Congress.
Hear what Conaway and Peterson have to say about the budget challenges that await the next bill on AgDay above.
Reporting by Michelle Rook.