Hoeven: Farm Bill Passage an Important Step in Providing Certainty for Farmers and Ranchers

At ND Farmers Union State Convention, Senator Outlines Provisions He Secured in Farm Bill, Efforts to Advance Second Half of Trade Assistance

BISMARCK, N.D. – At the North Dakota Farmers Union state convention today, Senator John Hoeven outlined his efforts to provide certainty for farmers and ranchers. This includes passing a strong farm bill, which the Senate and House approved this week. As a member of the farm bill conference committee and the Senate Agriculture Committee, as well as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, the senator secured important provisions in the farm bill, including expanded access to credit for producers and his proposal to reduce disparities under the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program. The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 87 to 13, and it is now headed to the President to be signed into law.

Hoeven also highlighted his work to advance the second half of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) trade assistance to help producers impacted by ongoing trade negotiations. The senator spoke this week with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney to help move this assistance forward. Hoeven has also been urging USDA officials, including Secretary Sonny Perdue and Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky, to ensure the second round of assistance best meets the needs of North Dakota’s farmers and to release the payments in a timely manner.

“Our farmers and ranchers are facing real challenges, between trade uncertainty, bad weather and low commodity prices,” said Hoeven. “Our agriculture producers work hard to provide our nation with the highest quality, lowest cost food supply in the world, and they deserve our support. The passage of the farm bill is a vital part of this effort and gives producers certainty through strong risk management tools, like crop insurance as well as ARC and PLC, and also provides better access to capital to help them maintain their operations. At the same time, we are working to help weather trade negotiations. The recent soybean order from China is a good step, but farmers still need support. That’s why we are urging OMB and USDA to advance the second round of trade assistance.”

Hoeven worked to include the following priorities in the final farm bill: 

  • Maintaining Crop Insurance: The farm bill maintains strong crop insurance policy.
  • Increased Access to Capital: The bill includes a version of Hoeven’s Capital for Farmers and Ranchers Act to provide producers, including beginning farmers, with greater access to the capital necessary to start or grow their operations. The bill increases the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Guaranteed Operation and Ownership Loans from $1.399 million to $1.75 million, Direct Operating Loans from $300,000 to $400,000 and Direct Ownership Loans from $300,000 to $600,000. 
  • Improvements to ARC and Price Loss Coverage (PLC): Hoeven worked to build on strengths in the commodity title from both the Senate and House bills. 
    • The conference agreement includes Hoeven’s proposal to reduce ARC disparities from county to county. It also includes an increase to the plug yield in ARC and uses trend adjusted yields under ARC. 
    • The bill updates the PLC program to allow reference prices to increase. Additionally, farmers will be allowed to make a new election between ARC and PLC in 2019, again in 2021 and annually in the following years.
  • Sugar Policy: The farm bill maintains strong sugar policy.
  • Increases for Marketing Assistance Loans (MAL): The bill increases MAL, a marketing tool that helps producers meet cash flow needs at harvest time without having to sell their commodities during the typical harvest-time low prices.
  • Improvements to CRP and Wetland Exemptions: Both Senate and House farm bills make changes to the Conservation Reserve Program.
    • Maintains Private Property Rights: At Hoeven’s urging, a proposal to authorize permanent easements was rejected by the conferees in defense of the private property rights of farmers and ranchers.  
    • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Site Visit: Improves the quality of the wetland appeals process by requiring NRCS to conduct a site visit with the participant after an appeal has been filed.
    • Report on Small Wetlands: Directs the NRCS to report the number of wetland acres in North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa that have been delineated and are less than one acre. 
    • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): Maintains EQIP and the full suite of other conservation programs. 
  • Supports Agricultural Trade: Supports agricultural trade by consolidating and providing strong funding for the Market Access, Foreign Market Development, Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops and the Emerging Market Programs. 
  • Ag Research: The final bill maintains strong land-grant formula research funding. It also includes increased funding from the Senate version for other USDA research programs, including the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative, which benefits research conducted at North Dakota State University.
  • Maintains the Water Bank Program.
  • Honey Bee Storage: Includes a Hoeven provision that make beekeepers eligible to apply to the Farm Storage Facility Loan Program for low-interest loans to support the construction of temporary refrigerated beehive storage facilities. 
  • Opioid Grant Funding for Rural Communities: Includes legislation Hoeven sponsored to help rural communities combat the opioid abuse epidemic through the USDA Rural Health and Safety Education Competitive Grants Program.
  • FARMERS FIRST Act: Includes Hoeven-cosponsored provisions to assist states with establishing helplines, training and support groups as well as reestablish the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) and a new Farm and Ranch Stress Assessment Committee.
  • CROPS for Indian Country Act: Hoeven secured key provisions from his bipartisan CROPS for Indian Country Act that will promote agribusiness in Indian Country and strengthen Tribal self-governance for USDA programs.