House Subcommittee Holds Farm Bill Hearings This Week, Next

June 18, 2010 Bookmark and Share

The House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management met Thursday to hear from a key USDA official on the status of 2008 Farm Bill programs and request information for the upcoming rewrite of federal farm policy.

Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Jim Miller testified at the hearing with Farm Service Agency Administrator Jonathan Coppess and Risk Management Agency Administrator Bill Murphy on hand to handle questions within their work areas.

Members on the Subcommittee asked multiple questions about how USDA is dealing with the low protein, high basis and lack of storage dramatically affecting some wheat producers’ cash flows in hard red winter wheat states.

Coppess indicated the SURE disaster assistance program could provide some coverage for losses assumed at the local level due to quality factors. NAWG staff is working with him and other officials to gain more information about this possibility and about any crop insurance coverage that could encompass these losses.

FSA also announced this week that a distress loan program will also be available for some wheat producers in affected states. These 90-day loans will allow producers to pledge their crop as collateral and store the wheat anywhere, including on the ground, that is not accessible to animals or water flow that could seriously affect its quality or quantity. Producers interested in this option should contact their local FSA office for eligibility information and details.

Also at the hearing, Miller answered questions about the effect on the 2012 Farm Bill baseline of a new Standard Reinsurance Agreement, the contract between USDA and crop insurance providers. The final draft of that agreement was issued last week and stands to take at least $4 billion out of the farm policy baseline, though the exact impact on the baseline remains unclear.

Additionally, Miller addressed USDA information technology infrastructure and his desire to simplify the administration of some farm programs, particularly new programs ACRE and SURE.

Coppess also reported that USDA would soon issue information about the next sign-up period for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), though that sign-up period will not go into effect for a number of months.

The Subcommittee is scheduled to hold its next hearing on Thursday, June 24, to hear from producer representatives about their experiences with the 2008 Farm Bill. NAWG Second Vice President Erik Younggren, a wheat producer from Hallock, Minn., is scheduled to testify.

For more information about the House Agriculture Committee’s schedule and written testimony from this week’s hearing, please visit http://agriculture.house.gov.

The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to hold its first hearing related to the 2012 Farm Bill on June 30, though the witness list has not yet been issued.