House Ag Committee holds farm bill commodity hearing
By Jay Stone, Georgia Farm Bureau
On March 1, the U.S. House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on the commodity title (Title I), which provides funding for farm support programs like crop insurance and disaster assistance.
“Today’s hearing is an important opportunity for us to reflect on commodity programs in the 2018 farm bill and gather input from key stakeholders on what is working and is not working for farmers across the country,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott (D-Georgia) said in his opening statement.
The hearing, titled “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: Commodity Group Perspectives on Title I,” included testimony from Georgians Jaclyn Ford and Meredith McNair Rogers.
Ford, a member of the National Cotton Council’s Farm Program and Economic Policy Committee, reviewed input cost challenges and the effectiveness of farm bill programs for cotton producers.
Though cotton prices are currently strong, most producers are being hit hard by increased input costs, particularly for fertilizer and pesticides.
“Most producers are expecting production costs to increase by 25% to 40% in 2022, largely due to higher fertilizer and pesticide costs,” Ford said. “As compared to a year ago, fertilizer prices have increased by 55% to 120%.”
Ford said an effective safety net for cotton producers should include price or revenue protection to address prolonged periods of low prices and depressed market conditions that span multiple years, as well as a strong and fully accessible suite of crop insurance products that allow growers to tailor their risk management strategy to fit their specific needs.
“The yearly producer election of either Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) included in the 2018 farm bill has worked well for growers and should continue in future farm bills,” Ford said, noting that under the 2018 farm bill, producers enrolled more than 90% of seed cotton base acres in PLC.
Rogers, representing the United States Peanut Federation, also noted increases in production costs for peanut producers. In 2021, production costs averaged $545.97 per ton. In 2022, production costs are expected to average $666.94, a 22% increase.
“We are in the process of working on the farm budget for this year and have found our expected cost increases very high,” Rogers said. “The fertilizer costs are well over double as compared to last year and availability is a problem.”
Rogers cited a review of peanut farm data by the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, which showed that peanut producers are struggling to cover their production costs, and significant numbers of farmers are using equity in land or their 401(k) plans to cover production costs.
Agribusinesses in the peanut sector also support PLC as provided in the 2018 farm bill.
“The structure of the program, a marketing assistance loan, reference price and the current payment limit structure allow not just growers but also the industry to provide jobs and some level of economic stability to rural communities,” Rogers said.
To access testimony from all of the hearing witnesses, click here.