Top Crop Manager

News
US Committee approves ‘final’ farm bill provisions

Members of the House-Senate conference committee approved the major elements of the new US farm bill last Thursday (May 1) bringing an end to a long ordeal. Agricultural research, beginning farmers, natural resources and hungry families are all well supported by the bill says a statement issued by the Agriculture Committee staff.


May 5, 2008
By deltafarmpress.com

May 2, 2008

Is the long, national ordeal over the 2007…
oops, now the 2008 farm bill nearing an end?

That’s
what farm leaders were wondering as members of a House-Senate conference
committee approved the major elements of the new law during a meeting Thursday
night (May 1).

The
action came after the House and Senate voted to extend the current law until
May 16 to allow staff members to work through finalizing the few remaining
issues and obtain Congressional Budget Office scoring of the farm bill’s
provisions.

“Today’s
adoption of all major elements of the new farm bill brings us within a few
steps of the finish line,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and chair of the House-Senate
farm bill conference committee.

“This
bill provides support for everything from agricultural research and beginning
farmers to protecting our natural resources and helping to feed hungry
families,” he said in a statement issued by the Agriculture Committee staff.
“It looks to the future in renewable energy production, and it ensures farmers
have the income protection they need.”

Harkin
said conference committee members believe their bill, which must be voted on by
the full House and Senate, will be one President Bush could sign despite his
statements during a White House press conference early this week.

Sen.
Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee,
met with the president Thursday to discuss Bush’s objections. Following the
meeting, Chambliss told reporters the president expressed “philosophical”
objections to the spending and payment limit reforms in the new farm bill, but
was noncommittal on whether he would sign a bill.

Harkin
said the farm bill approved Thursday night contained the following highlights:

Commodities
Title:

The
bill includes a newly named Producer Income Protection title that continues
basic features of the 2002 bill, which farmers have thought worked well, and it
gives producers a new option, beginning with the 2010 crop year, to choose to
participate in a state-level revenue protection system.

The
Average Crop Revenue program, modeled after legislation proposed by farmers and
introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, offers
producers better options for managing risk of both yield and price declines on
their farms.

Conservation
Title:

The
new CSP, renamed the Conservation Stewardship Program provides incentives for
adopting, improving and maintaining sound conservation practices on land in
agricultural production. Harkin said the program would enroll just under 13
million acres each year (starting in 2009) through 2017, for a total of nearly
115 million acres. An additional $1.1 billion was provided for CSP for a total
of $12 billion over 10 years.

This
title shifts the focus in conservation strongly in the direction of working land
conservation. Funding that would not have been used in land retirement programs
was redirected to programs that focus on reducing the environmental impact of
agricultural production, like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program
(EQIP) and CSP.

Energy
Title:

Increases
Biofuels Production: The farm bill will accelerate commercialization of
advanced biofuels, like cellulosic ethanol, by helping farmers produce biomass
crops, by providing grants and loan guarantees to support these new
biorefineries, and by increasing bioenergy research to guarantee that we have a
continuing flow of more productive and resource-conservative technologies in
the decades to come.

It
also expands the renewable energy and energy efficiency program that has been
helping farmers and ranchers and rural small businesses since it was adopted in
the 2002 farm bill.

Livestock
Title:

The
new farm bill includes the first-ever Livestock Title to provide basic
protections for producers in livestock and poultry markets. Among the highlights:


Provides producers the ability to decline to be bound by an arbitration clause
in a livestock or poultry contract.


Enables a producer to settle a dispute in the federal judicial district where
he or she lives rather than where the company headquarters is located.


Provides the compromise for country of origin labeling of meat, fruits and
vegetables, peanuts, pecans and macadamia nuts


Improves oversight of USDA’s enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act by
requiring the Department to provide an annual compliance report detailing the
number and length of time spent on investigations of potential violations of
the Act.


Assists hog producers by authorizing a program for trichinae certification to
promote trade and marketing of pork.

Nutrition
Title:

Federal
Food Assistance: historic investments in fighting hunger and inadequate
nutrition, including:


Ending benefit erosion caused by inflation


Providing food assistance without requiring recipients to exhaust savings and
retirement accounts

• Increasing
food assistance to households with high childcare costs


$1.25 billion dollars in commodity purchases for food banks


Child Nutrition: $1 billion to improve child nutrition by expanding the Fresh
Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program nationally.

Research
Title:


Organic Research and Extension Initiative: The Research Title provides $78
million in mandatory funds for the program, which enhances the ability of
organic producers and processors to grow and market organic food, feed and
fiber.


Specialty Crop Research Initiative: The bill provides $230 million in mandatory
funds for this new grants program to help meet the needs of producers and
processors of specialty crops in the areas of mechanization, plant breeding,
genetics, genomics, pests and diseases, and food safety.

Rural
Development Title:


Rural Water and Wastewater: $120 million in mandatory funds for the pending
rural development loan and grant applications for rural water and wastewater
assistance.


Value-Added Producer Grant Program: $15 million for the program, which
encourages independent producers of agricultural commodities to process their
raw commodities into marketable goods.


Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program: $15 million in mandatory funds for
the program, which provides technical assistance and small loans to beginning
entrepreneurs to help start businesses in rural areas.

Fresh
Fruits and Vegetables:


Organics: Funding for The National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program has
been increased from $5 million in the last farm bill, to $22 million. The farm
bill also supports the Organic Data Collection Initiative, which provides USDA
and organic producers with national production and market data to effectively
market their products.

Pest
and Disease Detection: Over $400 million over the next 10 years for a new
program to improve pest and disease detection capabilities. The bill also
provides $20 million for the National Clean Plant Network, which will
strengthen research to improve plant health and eradicate plant viruses.


Farmers’ Markets: expansion of the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program, first
created in the 2002 farm bill, by providing $33 million over the next five
years to continue our investment in promoting fresh, local foods.