Ag News

House Ag Committee releases first draft of farm bill

On April 12 U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway introduced the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, the first draft of the proposed 2018 farm bill. The committee passed the bill on April 18.

The bill, H.R. 2, would replace the 2014 farm bill, which is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30.

Conaway (R-Texas) said the bill maintains and strengthens agricultural commodity programs at a critical time for farmers.

“The farm bill keeps faith with our nation’s farmers and ranchers through the current agriculture recession by providing certainty and helping producers manage the enormous risks that are inherent in agriculture,” Conaway said.

According to an AFBF review of the bill synopsis by Congressional Budget Office released, the 641-page bill would increase spending on crop insurance, conservation and commodity programs over 10 years. Total spending for the farm bill would decrease by $88.7 billion over 10 years.

According to a committee summary, the bill would allow Price Loss Coverage (PLC) reference prices to adjust when markets improve and would allow farmers affected by long-term exceptional drought to update their yields. The Agricultural Risk Coverage-County (ARC-County) crop insurance plan would use actual yields collected by the USDA’s Risk Management Agency by counting irrigated acres and dryland acres separately and by using the physical county in which the farm is located when determining ARC-County benefits.

“We’re pleased that the House Agriculture Committee has moved forward with the process of drafting the new farm bill,” GFB President Gerald Long said. “No bill of this magnitude is ever perfect, but we’re encouraged that the commodity and crop insurance programs would be maintained and in some cases increased under this bill, providing much-needed help for farmers struggling to maintain financial sustainability. We’re hopeful that Congress can complete this bill before the current farm bill expires and we look forward to assisting Georgia’s members of Congress as they move through the process.”

Included in the ARC/PLC program is a provision for seed cotton, referring to unginned cotton and seed. The seed cotton reference price – the commodity price below which farm bill programs would provide assistance for growers – is set at 36.7 cents per pound in the House bill.

The reference prices for other major Georgia crops: peanuts, $535 per ton; corn, $3.70 per bushel; soybeans, $8.40 per bushel; wheat, $5.50 per bushel.

According to the committee summary, the Dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) would be renamed the Dairy Risk Management (DRM) program, and would make the first 5 million pounds of milk production eligible for higher coverage at lower premiums. Milk production not covered under DRM would be fully eligible for a comparable crop insurance policy.

The bill would increase funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to $3 billion per year and increases acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program to 29 million over the life of the bill. It also includes $100 million toward a pilot program to address feral hog issues.