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Commodity groups: 2018 Farm Bill needs strong safety net

Corn, soybean, wheat, barley, and sorghum growers voiced their concerns today in D.C. on both commodity policy and crop insurance. The House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management hosted several agricultural groups to testify in preparation for the 2018 Farm Bill.

National Corn Growers Association President Wesley Spurlock said the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) risk management program and crop insurance have been critical to helping corn farmers during a weak farm economy and should be maintained in the 2018 Farm Bill.

“Together, crop insurance and the ARC-County program have helped many farmers weather the storm of a weak farm economy and avoid bankruptcy,” said Spurlock, during his testimony at the hearing.

Spurlock noted that corn prices have averaged below $4.00 per bushel since 2013, and are projected to average just $3.40 this marketing year.

“At that price, few corn farmers have a positive net income. Meanwhile, we face a lot of uncertainty about federal policy on renewable fuel and trade, and how that will impact our bottom lines,” Spurlock said. “We must work together to rebuild a strong farm economy – but in the meantime, strong farm bill programs are essential to support farmers. ARC was designed to be a market-based program that provides support only when needed, and now is that time. By and large, the program is working as intended.”

American Soybean Association (ASA) President and Illinois soybean farmer Ron Moore spoke on the need for robust programs within the risk management framework of the nation’s farm legislation. Moore contrasted the successful farm economic landscape in which the 2014 Farm Bill was written with the more troubling financial situation many farmers find themselves in today, and called on the committee to make the necessary investments in farm bill programs—including increases where appropriate—so that each can work to its full potential.

“Farm prices are down by 41 percent and farm income is down by 50 percent. Due to continued low prices, estimates for 2017 show a further decline in income of 7.1 percent,” Moore said. “Land rents and input costs remain stubbornly high, and producers are having increasing difficulty obtaining operating loans. In view of these circumstances, ASA [asks] Congress to write the 2018 Farm Bill based on the very real need by U.S. producers for a stronger safety net rather than extending existing programs… Correcting shortcomings in the 2014 Act and funding other important programs whose effectiveness has diminished over time will require additional resources from outside the farm bill.”

“A farm bill is written to be an aid for producers during bad times and help their operations survive to farm another year. When we wrote the last farm bill, times were good in farm country. Now, that is not the case. Today, we heard of the hardships farming families are experiencing day in and day out to get financing, pay back debts, and simply try to break even. It is important we look at the current environment our farmers and ranchers are facing and adjust policies to reflect that in the next farm bill,” said Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Rick Crawford (AR-1).

“Commodity prices have collapsed over the past four years and net farm income continues to fall, with no relief in sight. In spite of growing pressure in the countryside, the 2014 Farm Bill is now projected to save $104 billion over the next 10 years—four times the estimate at passage. The agricultural community has repeatedly answered the call for deficit reduction. In light of that, it is important that we craft strong and effective policies in the next farm bill that meet the risk management needs of our farmers and ranchers and ultimately benefit consumers,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway.


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Arkansas Gov. signs bill, companies can sue video voyeurs

While Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is receiving the most attention nationally for recently signing a bill to expand concealed gun rights and another to separate the celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr. and General Robert E. Lee, he also signed a bill that impacts agriculture and targets animal right activists … companies can now sue those who secretly make videotapes harming business owners.

The House Bill 1665 allows businesses to sue individuals who share documents, pictures, videos, or recordings that damage the company, if they were taken from nonpublic areas. The law also applies to employees.

Several animal rights groups have came out opposing the measure. PETA said the new legislation is a gift to animal abusers, but they won’t quit.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund went a step further.

“The ability to investigate, document and publicize corporate agriculture’s abuses is imperative to the well-being of animals, and to our own health and safety,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “The Animal Legal Defense Fund is already challenging Ag-Gag laws in Utah, Idaho, and North Carolina. We’ll see Arkansas in court soon.”

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