Sources: ASA Effort Against House Farm Bill's PLC Perplexing to Some

September 19, 2013 07:03 AM



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Group in push to eliminate House PLC, angering House proponents and farmers who want an effective choice

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The bewildering farm bill developments continue, with the latest event being an attempt by the American Soybean Association (ASA) to eliminate the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) option included in the House farm bill and supported by bipartisan leaders of the House Ag Committee – Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).

The following is an Issue Update sent Sept. 18 to ASA Directors, State Affiliate and Staff by ASA President Danny Murphy:

Sept. 18, 2013

Good Morning ASA Directors, State Affiliates and Staff,

The House is gearing up for a vote Thursday on Majority Leader Cantor’s bill to cut $39 billion over ten years from the SNAP (food stamp) program. With no Democrats supporting the measure, current Republican whip counts suggest Cantor may fall 15-17 votes short. Win or lose, Speaker Boehner has indicated he will appoint farm bill Conferees after the vote. If it fails, it could make agreement on the Nutrition Title easier since Conferees wouldn’t have to reconcile the major gap between $39 billion and the $4 billion SNAP cut in the Senate bill. This would improve chances of finalizing the entire bill sometime this fall.

As you know, ASA has consistently argued against tying high and fixed reference (target) prices to current-year planting, as the House PLC program would do, because it could distort planting decisions, production, prices, and trade in years when market prices fall below support levels. Re-coupling target prices to current year plantings also would make U.S. farm programs more vulnerable to WTO challenges. We support the Senate bill which includes an Adverse Market Program that continues decoupled reference prices and bases support levels on a rolling Olympic average of prices in the previous five years.

Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Foreign Trade Council sent a letter to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees raising serious concern that price-based programs in the farm bill, and particularly the recoupled House PLC program, will invite other countries to initiate WTO cases against the U.S. They cite the Brazil cotton case, in which a WTO panel found cotton support programs to violate U.S. WTO obligations, as a precedent for what could happen if PLC is included in the final farm bill. Their letter includes a link to a comprehensive analysis by the international law firm of White & Case, which provides a thorough explanation of these concerns.

Last Friday, AFBF President Bob Stallman called on the Agriculture Committees to approve the House PLC program in Conference. Unfortunately, this stance by AFBF disregards the increased likelihood that soybeans and other U.S. commodities could be on the losing end of WTO cases if the House’s coupled PLC program is adopted. ASA is asking you to share the letter and analysis with other farm and commodity organizations in your state, and to urge them to join you in weighing in with your Members of Congress to oppose the House PLC program and to support the Senate farm bill.

Please reach out to ASA’s Washington staff with any questions you have on this or other farm bill issues.

Thank you,

Danny Murphy, President, American Soybean Association


UPDATE: A Farm Bureau contact said, "Stallman didn't say AFBF supported the PLC program.  He said we supported the House Ag target prices over the Senate amounts. That doesn't include all the other "ties" included in the House bill that say if you take PLC, then..."

Comments: Sources say that a key Senate Ag Committee staffer, and perhaps Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), urged the groups mentioned above to send a letter raising concerns about the price-based programs in the House farm bill. Contacts also inform that the so-called "comprehensive analysis" from an international law firm was equally critical of the Senate's "shallow loss" program. Also, contacts say it will be interesting to see if American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman comments on ASA's current effort to try and push state Farm Bureau presidents to oppose PLC in challenge to Stallman’s support.

Meanwhile, one farm bill analyst said ASA's support of the Senate's Adverse Market Program is perplexing since some analysis shows it would not have paid out anything to farmers over the past 80 years.

An agriculture consultant said, "In March, ASA abandoned ARC for support of the current CCP with updated target prices. Am I missing something or does that sound a lot like PLC. At a minimum, they clearly supported an effective choice for farmers – not a choice guaranteed to move them to ARC."


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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