Resources for North Dakota Producers
FARM BILL RESOURCES
On December 22, 2017, Congressman Cramer shared his support for a strong farm bill and the work done by the House Agriculture Committee to deliver a bill this year:
Highlights in the Legislation
Swampbuster Minimal Effects Standards
Although Congress always intended for minimal wetland thresholds to exist for the purposes of Swampbuster, USDA never followed through. Cramer introduced legislation which, for the first time, requires the USDA, within six months, to define minimal wetlands exemptions for the program, which must be applied before any wetland conversations can be alleged against our producers.
Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC)
Cramer introduced a bipartisan bill in December 2017, H.R. 4654, to fix the ARC program for producers. The fix directs the Secretary to prioritize Risk Management Agency data (per county) and codifies the program to make payments to producers using the payment rate of the county of the physical location of the base acres of a farm.
The ARC program is designed to provide support to producers when actual county revenue falls below 86 percent of expected county revenue. The Agriculture & Nutrition Act of 2018 continues the ARC program but makes certain changes to address key concerns heard by the Committee over the past 3 years. First, the farm bill mandates the use of actual yields collected by the Risk Management Agency (RMA) where those yields are available. RMA is a more accurate and defensible source of yield data, ensuring payment variability is due to actual differences in yields. Second, the farm bill will require the Secretary calculate separate revenues for dryland and irrigated crops to reduce disparities in counties where a blended revenue was previously used. Finally, the farm bill will require that all program payments be based on the county of the physical location of the farm rather than on the location of the FSA county office where the farm records are kept.
Price Loss Coverage (PLC) - New Reference Prices Yield Updates due to Drought
PLC is designed to provide assistance to producers when market prices fall to critically low levels, below statutory reference prices, and well below the cost of production. The Agriculture & Nutrition Act of 2018 continues PLC but with two key enhancements. First, reference prices are allowed to adjust with improvements in market prices. Specifically, the new “effective reference price” is the greater of (1) 85 percent of the 5-year Olympic average price and (2) the statutory reference price established in the 2014 Farm Bill. In no case can the effective reference price be more than 115 percent of the statutory reference price. Second, producers are allowed to update yields in counties that were in at least 20 weeks of exceptional (D4) drought during the previous yield update period (crop years 2008 through 2012). In the almost 400 counties that qualify, producers will be given a one-time opportunity to update yields—using the same methodology as the previous farm bill—based on average yields from 2013 to 2017.
Crop insurance maintained
The draft bill maintains the existing structure of crop insurance, rejects proposals to means test or payment limit crop insurance and invests in expanding crop insurance options.
Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage (PRF)
Currently, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is responsible for collecting rainfall data that is used in the PRF weather insurance collections. Many North Dakota livestock producers in rural areas believe that data reported by NOAA may not be representative of the actual rainfall received. The Committee expects the Secretary of the USDA, acting through RMA, to evaluate the coverage of NOAA weather stations in remote areas and consider alternative data collection methods to supplement where NOAA rainfall data may be lacking.
In August 2017 Cramer held a listening session with producers and RMA stakeholders in Dickinson to discuss the challenges with rainfall data.
CONTINUE READING: Ranchers Get Answers at RMA Info Session in Dickinson
FSA Guaranteed and Operating Farm Loans
Reauthorizes the Loan Guarantee Program. Farm Ownership and Operating Loan Program loans limits are increased from $700,000 to $1,750,000, enabling farmers and ranchers to maintain, buy, and enlarge down payments and construction on new or existing farms or ranches.
Sugar program maintained
Sugar producers are not eligible to participate in ARC or PLC. Instead, sugar producers are eligible for a non-recourse marketing loan. The Secretary is directed to operate the marketing loan at no net cost to the taxpayer. The Agriculture & Nutrition Act of 2018 continues the current no-cost sugar policy.
Maintains the current suite of disaster programs, including the Livestock Forage Program (LFP), Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP).
Protect Interstate Commerce Act of 2018
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) successfully had added his legislation which prevents States and local jurisdictions from interfering with the production and distribution of agricultural products in interstate or foreign commerce. This issue stems from the State of California and their mandates against the importation of eggs into their state unless the hens are housed in cages specified by California. This amendment can impact other commodity groups and states seeking to participate in trade across state borders.
Conservation Reserve Program
The 24 million-acre cap would be raised to 29 million acres, pursuant to the following schedule: 25,000,000 acres in 2019; 26,000,000 acres in 2020; 27,000,000 acres in 2021; 28,000,000 acres in 2022; and 29,000,000 acres in 2023. Rental rates are capped at 80 percent of National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) county average and requires NASS to calculate rental rates every year.
Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
The farm bill maintains $85 million per year in mandatory funding for Specialty Crop Block Grants, and clarifies performance evaluation language.
Trade: Market Access Program/Foreign Market Development
Streamlines the Market Access Program (MAP), the Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program, the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) Program, and the Emerging Markets Program (EMP) into one International Market Development Program, restoring funding for FMD and TASC, and establishing overall funding at $255 million per year moving forward.
Wetland Mitigation Banks
The Wetland Mitigation Banking Program was authorized at $10 million in mandatory funding and allows for as much as 5 million/year to be appropriated for the length of the Farm Bill. Mitigation banking is the preservation, enhancement, restoration or creation of a wetland, stream, or habitat conservation area which offsets, or compensates for expected adverse impacts to similar nearby ecosystems. Congressman Cramer’s wetland mitigation amendment language was adopted in the conference report in the 2014 Farm Bill, encouraging the Secretary of Agriculture to subject a producer to no higher than a 1-for-1 acreage basis when enhancing, restoring, or creating wetlands.
The Agriculture & Nutrition Act of 2018 aims to keep American agriculture at the forefront of innovation and productivity by authorizing cutting-edge research programs and supporting the nation’s land-grant universities (LGUs) and non-land grant colleges of agriculture.
Vegetation Management to Ensure Electricity Reliability
The Farm Bill encourages proper management for healthy and productive forests. This includes Cramer’s National Forest System Vegetation Management Pilot Program Act of 2017, H.R. 2921, which passed the House on October 31, 2017. The legislation creates a privately funded pilot program to conduct limited and selective vegetation management near utility infrastructure outside of a right-of-way under a gross negligence liability standard.
The bill ensures the USDA and its partners have the tools necessary to prevent and respond to emerging animal diseases that pose a threat to U.S. economy and food security. This is accomplished by reauthorizing the National Animal Health Laboratory Network for rapid disease diagnosis and establishing a U.S.-only vaccine bank to respond to accidental or intentional introduction of animal disease—foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in particular.
Integrity of nutrition assistance strengthened
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) continues to provide supplemental nutrition assistance to Americans in need. The bill seeks opportunity focused on improving recipients’ futures and offering them a springboard out of poverty. This moves away from unenforceable and ineffective work requirements, and partners with individuals who want to improve their lives, supports all eligible adults who want to achieve self-reliance for themselves and their families. For at least 20 hours per week, work-eligible individuals must work, participate in a work program, or participate in SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) – anyone who wants a slot in E&T will have one.
Study on Loan Risk
Under current law, farm mortgages are not allowed to be passed on to secondary markets if they are over 1,000 acres or $13 million. Secondary markets are a vital component of agricultural lending. The House Farm Bill requires the Farm Credit Administration (FCA) to conduct a study assessing the feasibility of increasing the 1,000 acre limitation to 2,000 acres. The finding of that report would be sent to the committees of jurisdictions in both chambers which would highlight any potential lending risks that may occur.
The Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations program, also known as P.L. 566, authorizes Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to provide technical and financial assistance to state and local organizations to plan and install measures to prevent erosion, sedimentation, and flood damage and to conserve, develop, and utilize land and water resources.
Combat Opioid Addiction
Gives the Secretary the authority to help communities combat the current opioid addiction by prioritizing assistance to projects that can bring medical services to those in need.
The House Farm Bill makes two significant improvements to the broadband loan program. First, the bill requires that applicants plan for networks that will provide broadband quality service for the lifetime of their loan. New, forward-looking standards will ensure that rural residents will not be stuck with substandard service that is protected from competition for a decade or more.
Second, the bill provides strong incentives for applicants to provide service to underserved communities that have long been too expensive for a provider to reach under the current program. In many rural areas, the costs of financing broadband through infrastructure loans can never be recouped by subscriber fees. The House Farm Bill will provide incentives for applicants across several different loan programs that support broadband deployment to reach deeper into rural communities, by providing them grant funding if their projects meet certain density thresholds. This new density test will help to ensure that support is provided to those networks that most.
The House Farm Bill makes two changes to benefit rural communities and rural electric cooperative ratepayers. First, the bill makes changes to the statute to ensure its long-term continuity of the popular Rural Development Loan and Grant Program (REDLG). Second, the Committee makes improvements to the Guaranteed Underwriter Program to simplify its administration and provide a new source of financing for rural broadband networks.
Pesticide Registration Enhancement
The farm bill includes the Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act (known as PRIA-4), reauthorizing a program in which the pesticide industry pays over $40 million in registration and maintenance fees, supplementing federal appropriations to provide resources for pesticide registration efforts, create a more predictable evaluation process, and fund worker protection training activities at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In the Media