Hoeven Calls on Secretary Vilsack to Help Farmers Facing Low Commodity Prices
WASHINGTON – During a hearing of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee this week, Senator John Hoeven called on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to continue working with him and his Senate colleagues on solutions for farmers and ranchers who are facing low commodity prices.
“Our farmers and ranchers are facing many challenges right now, including low commodity prices, inadequate access to credit, unfair trade practices in China and an increased regulatory burden,” Hoeven said. “We continue our efforts to help our ag producers overcome these issues, and we are urging Secretary Vilsack to support us in this important work.”
Hoeven pressed Vilsack for his support on initiatives to help farmers and ranchers maintain their operations and sell their products, including:
PROVIDING FLEXIBILITY IN FARM BILL PROGRAMS
Hoeven secured a new $5 million, nationwide pilot program in the Senate’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill to improve the fairness of the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) payment calculations. The program provides state Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices a role in ensuring accurate yield determinations and allows the offices to fix any inaccuracies between comparable counties by using an alternate calculation method. The senator pressed Vilsack to provide this flexibility to prevent inadequate ARC payments to farmers in affected counties, as happened to farmers in LaMoure and Logan counties for the 2014 crop year.
CHALLENGING CHINA’S UNFAIR TRADE PRACTICES
Hoeven thanked Vilsack for joining the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in launching a new trade enforcement challenge against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO). USTR is challenging the country’s excessive subsidies of wheat, rice and corn. In 2015 alone, China’s price supports for these crops amounted to nearly $100 billion more than the limits the nation committed to when it joined the WTO. The subsidies artificially inflated Chinese agriculture production and distorted global prices. The senator urged Vilsack to continue actively supporting the challenge, hold China accountable to its obligations and help American farmers compete on a more level playing field.
ENSURING FARMERS’ ACCESS TO CREDIT
The senator also requested Vilsack’s support for his Capital for Farmers and Ranchers Act, bipartisan legislation Hoeven introduced with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to increase the maximum loan amount that an individual farmer or rancher is able to receive under FSA’s loan and loan guarantee programs. The bill ensures farmers and ranchers have access to enough capital to continue their operations when revenue is limited. For example, it increases the FSA loan guarantee amount, which will now cover up to $2.5 million, up from $1.39 million, and doubles the amount on Direct Operating and Direct Farm Ownership Loans from $300,000 to $600,000.
In July, Hoeven also wrote to Vilsack to urge USDA to replenish the FSA loan programs, which faced a shortfall in loan authority due to farmers’ greater reliance on the programs during this time of low commodity prices. In response, the agency made additional funding available to leverage up to $185 million in additional lending for direct and guaranteed farm operation loans.
REDUCING THE REGULATORY BURDEN
Hoeven is also working to provide regulatory relief for the nation’s producers, including preventing the implementation of the Waters of the U.S. and anhydrous ammonia regulations. Hoeven preserved the general ag exemption under the Clean Water Act by securing a provision in the FY2016 funding bill to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from imposing the WOTUS Interpretive Rule.
The senator also successfully passed legislation preventing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from implementing a regulation in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 that threatened to limit the supply of anhydrous ammonia, a nitrogen fertilizer that is critically important to producers.
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