The current farm bill expires at the end of this week and agreement between House and Senate negotiators on a new agreement appears far from reach with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) saying that changes are proposed in 10 of the 13 farm bill titles. The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is working to exert pressure on the farm bill negotiators to get the bill done yet this week.
NCGA today sent a letter to the four agriculture committee leaders in the House and Senate calling on them to finish negotiations this week, before the current bill expires.
“Members of Congress have just a few days to come together and reach agreement on a bipartisan farm bill. There is no good reason this task can’t be completed,” said NCGA President Kevin Skunes in a press release announcing the letter. “Farm income forecasts remain low and farmers have been negatively impacted by trade tariffs and retaliation. A new farm bill would go a long way in providing some certainty during these challenging times.”
While Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has said farm bill talks can continue through December without negatively impacting farm programs, NCGA leadership disagrees.
Newly-named NCGA CEO Jon Doggett noted in an interview with AgWeb that the programs that would be impacted by a farm bill expiration are needed most by farmers right now.
“One of them is one of the market access programs, FMD, and that’s what funds overseas offices for groups like U.S. Wheat, the Grains Council and other organizations that are doing the very much needed job of building those foreign markets,” Doggett said. “We need those now more than ever. To lose the funding for those important activities and close those offices just when we need it the most, that’s foolish.”
Farm bill delays also create market uncertainty and present challenges for farmers and bankers in planning for 2019, according to Doggett.
“We’re seeing depressed corn prices, and it’s only going to get worse,” Doggett explained. “Bankers are starting to wonder what are we going to do with those folks? Are we going to make that loan for one more year?"
“There’s urgency,” Doggett continued. “I’m hearing it every day. My phone rings off the hook and we’re hearing very loud and clear: let’s get a farm bill done. What’s the delay?”
Doggett noted that NCGA is not seeking any additional changes as the farm bill is being debated in the conference committee.
The full text of the letter from NCGA to the Agriculture Committee leaders is below:
Dear Chairman Roberts, Ranking Member Stabenow, Chairman Conaway, Ranking Member Peterson,
On behalf of the National Corn Growers Association’s (NCGA) 40,000 grower members and representing the interests of the broader community of 300,000 corn farmers, I am writing to express concern over the approaching farm bill expiration.
As you are well aware, the current farm bill expires on September 30. Press reports indicate the increasing likelihood that members of Congress will return to their districts without passing a new bill. We strongly urge you to finish the bill before this deadline.
A new farm bill would provide some much-needed certainty to farmers, and their bankers, during very uncertain times. USDA recently forecast 2018 net farm income to decline by 13 percent from 2017, to $65.7 billion, half of the 2013 record of $123 billion.
Farmers are also bearing the brunt of trade tariffs and retaliation. An NCGA-commissioned economic analysis found a 44 cent per bushel loss in the price of corn from the beginning of May, right before tariffs were announced, through July, when tariffs were implemented. This is a $6.3 billion loss to corn farmers alone. In this environment, the support provided by the farm bill’s Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program is increasingly important. Unfortunately, if the farm bill is not finished by September 30, FMD will lose baseline, cutting off vital market development resources.
It is unfortunate that it appears agriculture is being held hostage to politics. Farm bills have traditionally been bipartisan efforts and for a new bill to be passed this must again be the case. It is time to get past partisan politics and find the common ground needed to pass a bill. There is no good reason for delay.
A new farm bill, signed into law before the current farm bill expires, would go a long way to easing economic tensions across farm country and providing certainty to farmers facing challenging times. NCGA encourages your continued cooperation and stands ready to be of assistance to meet this goal.
President, National Corn Growers Association