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Senate unveils Farm Bill

By Scott Waltman • Jun 8, 2018 at 9:00 PM

The U.S. Senate Friday unveiled its version of the Farm Bill.

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), said the draft contains several provisions of his.

According to a news release from his office, they include:

• Authorization for the Soil Health and Income Protection Program, a new voluntary program that would provide participating farmers with a short-term acreage conserving use option similar to the Conservation Reserve Program. It would require a commitment of only three to five years.

• A provision that would require that Agriculture Risk Coverage-County payments be calculated using the physical location of each farm’s tract of land instead of a farm’s administrative county.

• A provision that would improve the approval rate of Livestock Indemnity Program applications for death losses due to weather-related diseases.

• A provision that would provide premium discount assistance for Native American ranchers who purchase policies for the Risk Management Agency Pasture, Rangeland Forage crop insurance programs for the first time.

• Bipartisan legislation that would direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to strengthen its data-management systems by establishing a secure and confidential conservation and farm productivity data warehouse.

• A provision that would authorize the USDA secretary to allow cost-sharing for fencing and water distribution practices for acres enrolled in CRP.

• Provisions of bipartisan legislation that would improve the current Agriculture Risk Coverage program and its safety net potential by expanding the yield data sources that are used to calculate payments.

“Farmers and ranchers are already dealing with uncertain markets and commodity prices that are just half of what they were five years ago,” Thune said in the release. “The last thing we need to do is to sew greater confusion and uncertainty into these hardworking people’s lives. Ask anyone in the agriculture community, and they’ll tell you that we need a new farm bill, and this draft is a big step in the right direction. I look forward to considering this bill in the Agriculture Committee, a process that has historically been a bipartisan effort – and something I hope we’re able to continue this year through final passage of the farm bill."

The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss the draft.

Once passed, it will have to be reconciled with the House version.

During a recent visit to Aberdeen, Thune said he hopes the Farm Bill will be delivered to President Donald Trump in September.

“The farm bill is vital legislation, not just for American farmers but for consumers in our country and abroad who depend on us to provide food, fiber and fuel,” said Davie Stephens, American Soybean Association (ASA) vice president and Kentucky soybean grower. “We’re grateful to Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow for their bipartisan effort and for taking this important step toward completing the farm bill this year.”

Stephens continued, “Farmers need the certainty of a new five-year bill to manage continuing low crop prices and farm income as well as volatile conditions affecting our vital export markets. We urge the Senate Committee to act on this legislation as soon as possible and for the full Senate to consider it before the July Congressional recess.”

The proposed Senate Farm Bill released today misses an exceptional opportunity to bring the power and dignity of work to millions of Americans trapped in dependency, according to the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA).

FGA officials say research shows that work is the best path out of dependence. However, the Senate Farm Bill does not include expansions of the work requirements to parents and middle-aged adults featured in the House Farm Bill.

“The Senate Farm Bill is a missed opportunity to give millions of Americans the opportunity to lift themselves out of dependency,” said said FGA President and CEO Tarren Bragdon. “With a red hot economy and the number of jobs exceeding job seekers for the first time in a generation, there has never been a better time to reform welfare in America.”

Furthermore, the Senate proposal as it currently stands actually heads in the wrong direction and undermines existing pro-work laws in the states, according to the FGA.

“By moving existing provisions for able-bodied, working age adults to work, train, or volunteer to receive benefits, this proposal is actually an attempt to kill state laws preventing bureaucrats from waiving food stamp work requirements in Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and West Virginia,” said Bragdon.

The FGA is a non–profit, multi–state think tank that specializes in health care, welfare, and work reform.

The American Farmland Trust (AFT), the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food, applauds Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts’ and Ranking Member Stabenow’s bipartisan draft of the 2018 Farm Bill for maintaining the Conservation Title funding baseline, making improvements to the administration of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and including support for programs that benefit next-generation farmers.

AFT officials say their organization takes a holistic approach to saving farmland, recognizing the powerful connection between the land, good farming practices and the farmers and ranchers who raise the food we eat. The Senate Bill supports farming and farmers by maintaining funding of the Conservation Title and providing new, mandatory baseline funding for programs that assist next-generation farmers such as the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (contained in the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program).

AFT commends the Committee for the program improvements and additional ACEP funding provided in the bill, and looks forward to continuing to work with the Committee throughout the legislative process to provide at least $500 million a year for this critical program that is needed to help slow the rate of farmland loss to development.

The loss of farmland to development is serious and accelerating.

According to AFT’s recent report, “Farms Under Threat: The State of America’s Farmland”, 31 million acres were lost to development between 1992 and 2012, nearly twice the area of farmland was lost than was previously shown. ACEP is one of the most powerful tools available to protect farmland, effectively leveraging millions of dollars from other public and private sources to protect land. AFT has worked with state and local entities and agricultural land trusts — many of whom utilize ACEP funds — to protect over 6.5 million acres since its founding in 1980.

“We’re losing farmland at a rate of 175 acres per hour or 3 acres per minute. With ACEP funding at the $500 million level (as is proposed in the House Bill), the Farm Bill gives us a chance to stem the rapid loss of farmland,” urged John Piotti.

“In the next 10 to 15 years, one-third of agricultural land will change hands,” he continued. “When land is permanently protected by an easement it stays in farming. And it’s valued at its agricultural value instead of its development value, making it affordable for the next generation. Without adequate farmland protection we simply won’t have enough farms in the future to feed our growing population. We must act now to save the land that sustains us.”

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©2018 the American News (Aberdeen, S.D.)

Visit the American News (Aberdeen, S.D.) at www.aberdeennews.com

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