U.S. ag groups speak out on Farm Bill expiration

by World Grain Staff
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WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill in the U.S. on Sept. 30 has terminated a number of important programs and will very adversely affect many farmers and ranchers, as well as ongoing market development and conservation efforts, said a group of U.S. agriculture organizations.
The 2012 Farm Bill has stalled in the U.S. Congress. The Senate and the House Agriculture Committee passed their versions of the new bill, the full House was unable to do so.
The groups highlighted the programs affected by expiration of the 2008 bill.
• Dairy producers will face considerable challenges. The Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program expired on Sunday. That program compensated dairy producers when domestic milk prices fall below a specified level. Without a new farm bill, dairy farmers are left with uncertainty and inadequate assistance.
• Many farmers, ranchers and agribusiness or agricultural processors benefit from the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD). FMD is a cost-sharing trade promotion partnership between USDA and U.S. agricultural producers and processors. The program pools technical and financial resources to conduct overseas market development. FMD helps maintain and increase market share by addressing long-term foreign market import constraints and by identifying new markets or new uses for the agricultural commodity or product in the foreign market. That funding, as well as specific funding for personnel to run the program at USDA, will run out at the end of October.
• About 6.5 million acres rotates out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) this year. While current contracts are protected, no new signup will be allowed for CRP or the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).
• Both versions of the new Farm Bill contain funding for the disasters facing the livestock industry due to the drought. However, programs are currently only available for lack of forage, as well as death of animals.
• Numerous other programs, including energy, agricultural research, rural development and funding for new and beginning farmers could be added to this list of affected programs. The bottom line is that while expiration of the Farm Bill causes little or no pain to some, others face significant challenges.

Programs not affected by the expiration include nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly commonly known as food stamps.
Farmers and ranchers who manage their risks using the farm bill’s crop insurance provisions will be unaffected because, like SNAP, those programs don’t expire. Nor do some of the conservation-related programs.
In addition, most commodity-specific programs are largely covered by the 2008 Farm Bill since it applies to the 2012 crop year, rather than the 2012 fiscal year. The main challenge, however, will be in planning for 2013. This includes lining up the critical financial assistance needed from lending institutions which prefer, if not demand, to see business plans presented in black and white. That will be difficult when producers don’t know when to expect a new Farm Bill – or what type of financial safety net is likely to be included in that bill.
Groups commenting on the expiration include the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Pulse Association, the American Soybean Association, the National Association of Conservation Districts, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Barley Growers Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, the National Farmers Union, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Sunflower Association, the United Fresh Produce Association, the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, the U.S. Canola Association and the Western Growers Association.

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