Farm Bureau's Farm Bill Priorities
AFBF Wants Higher Reference Prices, Tighter CRP Acreage in Next Farm Bill
OMAHA (DTN) -- With a belief that Congress will write a new farm bill in 2023, the American Farm Bureau Federation on Thursday put down its marker with a list of recommendations, including a request that Congress raise commodity reference prices for the Price Loss Coverage and Agricultural Risk Coverage programs.
Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, spoke to reporters Thursday about some specifics in AFBF's farm bill priorities. Overall, AFBF wants to maintain current funding levels and keep a unified farm bill that includes both nutrition and farm-related programs in a single bill.
"It makes perfect sense that one single bill supports the people who produce the food and support the people who need assistance in accessing nutritious food for their families," Duvall said.
AFBF also wants to "prioritize risk management" in the commodity and crop insurance programs. The group wants USDA to boost its staffing to ensure the department is capable of providing technical assistance to farmers as well.
The farm bill will be challenged next year, Duvall said, as the makeup of Congress continues to become more urban, though he declined to address what a change in party control would mean for the bill.
"We have fewer members of Congress who represent rural districts along with a huge class of new members coming to Congress," Duvall said. "So, it's going to take all of us in agriculture to step up to have new members and rural and urban lawmakers to understand the food and farm bill."
Duvall said the AFBF recommendations were approved by the board of directors last week but will be debated by delegates at the group's annual meeting in January.
TITLE I COMMODITIES
Perhaps the biggest ask by AFBF is to raise reference prices for ARC and PLC. Farm Bureau is not alone in that request. Among commodity groups, the American Soybean Association and National Association of Wheat Growers have also come out in support of raising reference prices.
"We believe that because of the higher costs of production, it justified the increase in the reference prices for the title I commodities to ensure farmers remain economically viable," Duvall said.
The reference prices -- the price floor when PLC payments kick in -- are $3.70 a bushel for corn, $8.40 for soybeans and $5.50 for wheat, the three largest commodities in the program. Right now, it would take a hard fall for any of those programs to pay out. Farm groups right now say they don't begin to cover the cost of production.
Andrew Walmsley, senior director of government affairs for AFBF, said Congress would have to work through its own funding to determine how to raise reference prices.
"I think there's a recognition that our farmers are facing very high inflationary and high input prices, and there's a need to address reference prices," Walmsley said.
TITLE II CONSERVATION
AFBF wants to tighten the acreage cap and payments on the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
At the end of August, USDA had 22 million acres in the multiple iterations of CRP, though the 2023 acreage cap is 27 million.
AFBF wants to lower the overall cap and tighten the rental rates, which USDA increased through incentives under the Biden administration last year. While CRP is limited to 25% of a county's acreage, AFBF would like to see that extended to 25% on a per-farm basis as well.
About one-quarter of CRP acreage is also considered "prime" farmland, and Duvall said that land should come back into production. "We just don't see any benefit of setting land aside when we need to feed a hungry world," Duvall said.
Walmsley and Duvall both said rental rates are a concern, and they make it harder for producers who need access to more land. "It's a concern among beginning farmers and ranchers to have access to those grounds," Walmsley said.
Farm Bureau also wants some adjustments to emergency haying and grazing rules.
TITLE XI CROP INSURANCE
Like the National Corn Growers Association, Farm Bureau calls for no reductions in crop insurance but would like to see it expanded. AFBF opposes reductions in the federal premium cost share and opposes any means testing, income limits or demands on production practices that would limit the availability of crop insurance to farmers.
"None of us buy insurance for good times," Duvall said, adding, "Federal risk management is sometimes the only thing that stands in the way between a farmer and foreclosure."
Crop insurance balances the volatility that farmers face and helps ensure a stable food supply, he added.
AFBF would like to see an expansion of insured commodities, including more specialty crops -- fruits and vegetables. Farm Bureau also wants to see more risk-management tools for livestock producers, including contract growers.
Asked about tying conservation or climate-smart practices to crop insurance, Walmsley said, "We would much rather see practices encouraged through the conservation title."
AFBF declined to support a permanent disaster program because of questions on costs, delivery and impacts on crop insurance, Walmsley said.
AFBF STICKS WITH PUERTO RICO
Asked about the annual meeting set for Jan. 6-11 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Duvall said AFBF doesn't see any major challenges right now in holding the convention there. Some farm tours could be limited, he said, because of the damage agricultural areas have suffered.
"We've been in constant communication with Puerto Rico and their officials," Duvall said. "We have sent a team down to Puerto Rico to verify what they are telling us is true. We don't see that we'll have any challenges about having our convention down there. We're still really excited about it."
The full list of AFBF farm bill priorities can be viewed at https://www.fb.org/….
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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