As I write this piece to offer some
clarity on what to expect in this
year’s Farm Bill debate, a lot
remains unclear. But, if I had to
foreshadow what I think may happen, it
would go along these lines.
The most recent talk is that Senate
Agriculture Committee staff and agriculture
staff for members of the Committee
are plowing through the issues with a goal
of meeting an April 24 committee markup.
This follows the completion of Senate
Agriculture Committee hearings on the
Farm Bill, which concluded March 15
with a hearing on commodities and risk
management issues where Mississippi rice
farmer Travis Satterfield testified on
behalf of the industry.
On-Farm Or Area-Wide Revenue?
Many thorny issues you’ve heard about
are still outstanding, including whether a
revenue-based policy should protect onfarm
or area-wide revenue. The Senate is
also grappling with how to deal with the
issue of producer choice and what to do
with producers for whom revenue protection
will not work. A Farm Service
Agency-delivered revenue policy’s negative
interaction with crop insurance also
remains an issue.
Whether these divides can be bridged in
two weeks is the big question, with some
betting that markup will be deferred to
some later date at which time a unifying
package can be cleared in committee.
While what the Senate Agriculture
Committee may do is only one part of the
Farm Bill equation, it is important because
it will give us the first clear indication of
whether the Farm Bill will move any time
soon in the Senate and ultimately the
House. If the committee produces a divisive
package, the process may be all but
over until after the election with a one-year
extension looming large over any protracted,
divisive conference with the House.
Conversely, if the committee produces a
unifying package, prospects increase for
earlier progress and ultimate success.
Producers Need Options
For its part, the House continues with
field hearings that we have been very fortunate
to be part of. Illinois producer Blake
Gerard, Arkansas producer Dow Brantley,
Missouri producer Paul T. Combs and
Louisiana producer John Owen have done
superb jobs in Illinois and Arkansas, and I
expect we will have a presence in Kansas.
From there, the House Agriculture
Committee will top things off with Washington
hearings in late April and throughout
May, with a bill markup in June. While
the design of a revenue protection policy
and any such policy’s interaction with crop
insurance would also be issues in the
House, Chairman Lucas and Ranking
Member Peterson have both settled one
issue: Producers need options, and the
price-based option for rice developed last
fall should be included in the Farm Bill.
What happens next depends on whether
the Senate Agriculture Committee is able
to report a unifying bill. If so, and there is
successful consideration of the bill on the
Senate floor, the House could follow suit.
Short of that, prior to the election, we may
see an effort, at least in the House, to
extend current law to give producers of
fall-planted crops some certainty and to
give USDA more time to implement a new
Whatever policy differences may now
exist in the agriculture community, farm
policy leaders on Capitol Hill have proven
that these differences are not insurmountable
to getting a long-term and sound
Farm Bill done if a window of opportunity
presents itself. Our team in Washington
and our growers in the fields will be doing
all we can to make it happen.
To learn more, visit www.usarice.com.