Wiesemeyer: Farm Bill Fight Over More Than SNAP

September 17, 2018 12:12 PM
A deteriorating financial landscape for farmers and ranchers has blown open the farm bill talks to go back to the basics of funding levels for various parts of the farm safety net.

When House and Senate versions of a farm bill were sent to a conference committee earlier this year, it appeared the major sticking point would be work requirements for food stamp recipients that were included in the House version. A deteriorating financial landscape for farmers and ranchers, however, has blown open the farm bill talks to go back to the basics of funding levels for various parts of the farm safety net, according to Pro Farmer Washington policy analyst Jim Wiesemeyer.

“(House Ag Committee Chairman Mike) Conaway wants to talk policy first and then see what funding is needed to get that policy,” Wiesemeyer says. “The Senate, however, wants to come up with specific maximum levels by title as far as funding and that’ll lock in certain areas where it doesn’t give you as much wiggle room. There’s also battles internally going on to which title gets how much funding because apparently the Senate wants to make rather significant changes in the farmer safety net.”

If there are significant changes to be made to the farm safety net in addition to the divide over food stamp work requirements, it is unlikely that a new farm bill will be approved by the conference committee before the current bill expires at the end of the month.

According to Wiesemeyer, these added issues are likely what prompted President Donald Trump to tweet about the farm bill negotiations late last week.



“That’s what got Trump taking on (Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member) Debbie Stabenow where he put out his tweet saying that she’s, from Trump’s perspective, standing in the way of substantial progress of meeting that farm bill target by the end of this month,” Wiesemeyer says.

Work on the new farm bill started more than two years ago. The financial landscape in agriculture has changed dramatically since then and that is driving the Senate desire to revisit how farm support money and policy is divided.

“This is almost like a mini farm bill debate within the conference over the so-called ‘core principles’ all over again, because those battles were not yet completed in the farm bill debate,” Wiesemeyer says.

Remember it used to be called shallow loss payments program,” Wiesemeyer explains. “Now the corn and soybean industries need a big loss payment program because that's the years we're into now.”

As Wiesemeyer points out, any payment program involving corn production can quickly balloon costs because of the vast numbers of acres and bushels involved.

“So where are you going to get the funding?” he asks.

That may ultimately force Congress to extend the 2014 farm bill past the Sept. 30 expiration.

“I watched that 2014 Farm Bill closer than any farm bill either ever done, and I've been here since the mid 70s. Senator Stabenow and her staff usually get what they want,” Wiesmeyer says. “Boy, if you have Stabenow continuing to push hard line positions like she did in the 2014 Farm Bill…you're not going to have an agreement by the end of the month.”

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Spell Check

Eastern, NE
9/18/2018 08:43 AM

  Kudos for Stabenow for wanting to get it right. The have to work for food stamps was tried by the Republicans during the W administration. Guess what, it didn't work. So why are we trying to put a different colored lipstick on that pig? People need to learn from their mistakes, and not repeat them. A new farm bill needs to have realistic reference prices, a strong insurance program, increased CRP acres and a paid set aside. We won't see that. Reagan put agriculture in the state it is in today with farmers having to rely on and "farm" the programs. Why do we continue to believe the Republican BS? There is so many undercurrents involved with agriculture, it makes me wonder why anyone wants to be involved with production ag.

Realistic Approach
Central , MO
9/18/2018 09:19 AM

  Quit blaming President Trump. Your problems started a long time ago. Learn to farm without government assistance and you won’t have to worry about which politician got it wrong for your farm. If you Farm only what you can take care of you won’t have to transfer risk to the government (tax payer). I know this will bring out the “food security argument,” but guess what if you fail someone else will come in and farm it. There will always be someone to farm. Getting everyone off the government teet is tough and farmers will be better off if they side with President Trump. If you want better prices quit giving the government all your data (APH). Welfare is welfare if you have to work for your subsidies so should everyone that gets a subsidy.

Wisconsin Corn Grower
Kewaunee, WI
9/17/2018 09:42 PM

  Throw the whole bill out and start over from scratch. Include a crop insurance program that works like an automobile policy the more claims you have the more your premium is the less claims you have the lower your premium. If this is suppose to be our safety net make it affordable to everyone. Add a set aside program that would pay farmers to plant cover crops on idled land in times of oversupply such as now. Finally raise the support price of crops to reflect the cost of producing a crop today not fifty years ago. If now is a GREAT TIME to have a trade war now is a GREAT TIME to get this farm bill right.


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