Hoeven Hosts USDA Under Secretary Northey for Agriculture Roundtable, Receives Local Input on FSA, RMA & NRCS Programs

Senator Outlines Efforts to Make Conservation Programs Farmer-Friendly, Priorities for Farm Bill, Progress on Trade Negotiations

FARGO, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today hosted William Northey, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, for a roundtable with commodity groups and agriculture producers. Hoeven arranged today’s meeting in order to provide Northey with firsthand knowledge of local producers’ needs as well as input on the agencies and programs overseen by the Under Secretary, including the Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Risk Management Agency (RMA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Further, the event provided Hoeven and Northey the opportunity to update the groups on the following priorities:

  • Efforts to make conservation programs more farmer-friendly.
  • The Senate-House farm bill conference committee, on which Hoeven serves.
  • The trade negotiations with Canada and Mexico.

This local input is timely, as the farm bill conference committee held its first meeting last week. Hoeven continues his efforts to pass a strong farm bill into law as soon as possible, after which, the senator will work with Northey to implement the legislation and ensure North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers are well-served, receiving the certainty and support they need. 

“Under Secretary Northey oversees agencies that have a tremendous impact on farm country,” Hoeven said. “We appreciate his willingness to hear from our farmers and ranchers and thank him for working with us to help ensure USDA’s programs better serve our producers. This is especially important in the area of wetlands compliance, which creates a great deal of uncertainty. That’s why we included amendments in the Senate’s farm bill to help make the conservation title more farmer-friendly, with similar provisions also included in the House’s version. We need to finish our work in the conference committee as quickly as possible in order to get a strong farm bill in place. At the same time, the administration continues to make progress on securing better trade deals for our nation, and we hope for a timely and successful conclusion of the talks with Canada and Mexico.”

Wetlands Regulatory Relief

The recent reorganization of USDA placed NRCS under Northey’s jurisdiction, alongside FSA and RMA, in order to create a stronger partnership between producers and conservation. Today’s roundtable helps advance this priority and builds on a meeting Hoeven arranged between NRCS Acting Chief Leonard Jordan and local farmers and commodity groups in North Dakota. Hoeven brought Jordan to the state to highlight the need for conservation compliance reform and greater certainty under the agency’s wetlands determination process. 

Following this, the senator secured three amendments in the Senate’s version of the farm bill to make wetlands regulations in the conservation title more farmer-friendly. Hoeven is working with Northey to help accomplish this goal, while also continuing his efforts to maintain and strengthen his wetlands provisions in the final farm bill.

Farm Bill Conference Committee

Hoeven was named to the conference committee as he is the fourth highest ranking majority member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee. During last week’s meeting, the senator outlined the following priorities he is working to include in the final version of the farm bill:

  • Maintaining Crop Insurance: Both the Senate and House farm bills maintain strong crop insurance policy.
  • Improving Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) & Price Loss Coverage (PLC): Hoeven is working to build on strengths from both the Senate and House bills. That includes utilizing Hoeven’s pilot program to improve the flexibility and fairness of ARC payments, which he included in the Senate bill, as well as improvements to PLC from the House bill. 
  • Sugar Policy: The Senate and House farm bills maintain strong sugar policy.
  • Improvements to CRP and Wetland Exemptions: Both Senate and House farm bills make changes to the Conservation Reserve Program and contain language related to defining minimal effects exemptions and mitigation banking.
  • FSA Guaranteed and Direct Loans: The senator is working to maintain FSA loan increases during conference. The Senate bill increases Direct Farm Operating loans to $400,000 from $300,000; Direct Farm Ownership loans to $600,000 from $300,000; and Guaranteed Farm Operating and Ownership loans to $1,750,000 from $1,399,000.
  • Trade/Market Access Program (MAP), Foreign Market Development (FMD): Both bills consolidate and maintain funding for trade programs. 
  • Ag Research: Both the Senate and House farm bills maintain strong land-grant formula research funding. The Senate version also increases funding for other USDA research programs. For example, the authorization for the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative is increased from $10 million to $15 million, which benefits research conducted at North Dakota State University.

NAFTA Negotiations

Last month, the administration announced that it had reached a preliminary agreement with Mexico on central aspects of a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiation. Under fast-track authority, this deal will receive expedited consideration in Congress and require only simple majority votes in the House and Senate for passage. The U.S. and Canada are continuing high-level negotiations, with the hope of reaching an agreement to add Canada to the deal soon.