WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The U.S. Senate on Feb. 4 passed the five-year 2014 Farm Bill, which is now awaiting President Barrack Obama’s signature.
Agriculture groups voiced support for the bill, which has been in the works for three years.
“We are relieved and pleased to see the farm bill cross the finish line this afternoon,” said American Soybean Association (ASA) President and Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser. “Today’s vote is the culmination of years of advocacy by ASA and other farm groups on behalf of policies that help our individual crops and our collective industry move forward. We’ve invested a great deal of time and energy in this bill, and the final product represents a true compromise that will benefit many crops, regions and aspects of American agriculture.”
ASA said the bill includes a choice between a revenue program that covers both price and yield losses with county and farm level options, and a price support program which allows the optional purchase of insurance coverage under a Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO). The bill also eliminates direct payments while maintaining decoupled farm support programs that will minimize the possibility of planting and production distortions that could trigger new challenges from the World Trade Organization.
In addition to the risk management framework, the bill also secures several other ASA priorities: agricultural research programs, including the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR); export promotion done under the Foreign Market Development (FMD) and Market Access Program (MAP) on which soybeans depend as the nation’s top farm export; and key energy programs, including the Biodiesel Education Program and a strengthened Biobased Markets Program. Additionally, the bill consolidates 23 previous conservation programs into 13, while focusing conservation efforts on working lands.
The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) said it was pleased the bill will dedicate more than $600 million in mandatory funding to vital basic and applied animal health and disease research, as well a crop protection, beginning farmer and various USDA research programs.
Permanent livestock disaster assistance is critical to animal agriculture and Congress is to be commended for ensuring the commercial feed industry is integral to delivery of emergency livestock assistance, and that the Department of Agriculture will no longer use feed assistance as a means to rid of surplus commodities, AFIA said.
The trade title of the 2014 omnibus farm legislation includes full authorization of annual funding at $200 million for the Market Access Program and $34.5 million for the Foreign Market Development program. MAP, a program administered by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service forming partnerships between industry associations and businesses to divide costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities, has increased U.S. agricultural exports by more than 400 percent since the program’s creation in 1985.
The House and Senate agriculture committees are to be recognized for streamlining USDA’s conservation programs, AFIA said. Early on in the development of this Farm Bill, both committees embraced elimination of redundant or out-of-date programs—reducing through repeal or combination 23 federal conservation programs into just 13 — and reducing the Conservation Reserve Program acreage cap from 32 million acres to 23 million acres. The committees also more precisely defined environmentally sensitive land for enrollment in the CRP, an improvement a long time coming.
The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) thanked the U.S. Congress for its efforts on the bill.
“This bill strengthens crop insurance and allows growers the necessary safety net to keep a secure, affordable and healthy food supply. In addition, this bill provides funding for important programs in conservation, research and trade that help keep America’s wheat industry productive and competitive on a global scale,” said NAWG President Bing Von Bergen, a wheat farmer and seedsman from Moccasin, Montana, U.S.