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Producers are urged to be active in creating 2018 Farm Bill policy

Written by Emilee Gibb

As the 115th Congress convenes for 2018, many changes are being discussed on Capitol Hill. During end of the year, a Farm Foundation Forum was held in Washington, D.C. that discussed expected changes for the 2018 Farm Bill.

Agricultural organizations nationwide urged farmers and ranchers to begin thinking about the 2018 Farm Bill and expressing their preferences.

“It’s not too soon to start talking about this Farm Bill, and we encourage producers to be active in the policy making process this winter,” said American Farm Bureau (AFBF) Lobbyist Mary Kay Thatcher.

Background

“When I talk to farmers, many of them say, ‘Why don’t we rename the Farm Bill so people know what it’s about. It’s not a farm bill as much as it’s a food bill,’” commented Thatcher.

In the 2014 Farm Bill, 77 percent of the bill cost was in the form of nutrition programs.

“It’s primarily the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which was formerly called food stamps. However, it also includes funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Senior's Farmers’ Markets Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Snack Program for children,” explained Thatcher.

The 2014 bill’s second largest component was crop insurance, which is 10 percent of the bill.

“It’s been a very successful program, insuring almost 90 percent of all of the eligible cropland nationwide,” she said.

Other spending categories of the bill include conservation, commodities and other programs.

Friend of ag

The well-recognized face in agriculture of Chuck Conner was present during the Farm Foundation Forum in November.

Conner has served the agricultural industry in many facets including the agricultural committee at Capitol Hill, Corn Refiners, in the George W. Bush Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the Deputy Agriculture Secretary.

“He really was the point for ag policy in the Bush Administration. Since then, he’s been with the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives,” said Agri-Pulse Senior Editor Philip Brasher

The Washington, D.C. veteran gave considerable insight at the Forum as to the direction that the 2018 Farm Bill will most likely go.

“Chuck had some very strong opinions about what’s going to happen with the Farm Bill, and I think for a lot of our listeners who like the current Farm Bill with some tweaks here and there for commodities would probably like what he had to say,” continued Brasher.

Expected changes

According to Agri-Pulse Associate Editor Spencer Chase, Conner commented that the 2018 Farm Bill will not be an extension of the current policy.

“Chuck was adamant that there will be another farm bill and that an extension of the current policy that we’re working under right now would not suffice in the long term,” commented Chase.

The new bill will most likely address problem areas, including commodities, such as cotton and the Dairy Margin Protection Program.

Brasher explained that Conner described the plans for the new Farm Bill as “farmer friendly” and “pro-farmer.”

“He was emphatic that not only would there be a farm bill, but it would be a farm bill that farmers would like,” said Brasher.

Special interest groups most likely will not be effective in making significant changes to U.S. farm policy.

“Chuck made clear that the Environmental Working Group and Heritage Foundation, both of which would like to see some major changes in farm policy, were not going to be successful,” emphasized Brasher.

Looking ahead

Agricultural organizations, such as AFBF, are actively working to lobby for issues most relevant to their members for the 2018 Farm Bill, as well as to provide resources on current topics for the bill.

“Farm Bureau has put together a working group of AFBF staff and 16 staff from state Farm Bureaus to provide some opinion papers and to encourage farmers to be involved in the policy development process,” said Thatcher.

“If producers go to the website fb.or/farmbillworkinggroup, they’ll find almost 50 opinion papers dealing with many issues, as well as a survey and other resources,” she concluded.

Agri-Pulse plans to launch an in-depth editorial series in February for interested individuals titled “The Seven Things You Should Know Before You Write the Next Farm Bill.” It can be found at agri-pulse.com.

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..