Hoeven Secures Commitment from USDA General Counsel Nominee to Support Regulatory Relief for Farmers and Ranchers

Senator Also Discusses Need for Capital for Farmers and Ranchers Act with Farm Credit Administration Nominee

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, recently secured a commitment from Stephen Vaden, the nominee to serve as General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to work with him in providing regulatory relief to farmers and ranchers. The senator stressed how the added costs of burdensome federal rules strain agriculture producers’ operations, which poses an even more significant threat during times of low commodity prices and natural disasters. Hoeven also raised the issue of public roads and access in the national grasslands to Vaden, urging him to work with the Forest Service and the state to reach a mutually acceptable settlement.

“The regulatory burden is an issue for all small businesses, and its impact is felt even more so by our farmers and ranchers as they recover from this year’s drought,” said Hoeven. “I appreciate Mr. Vaden’s commitment to provide relief to our agriculture producers, and I look forward to working with him following his confirmation.”  

Regulatory Relief

Today’s confirmation hearing aligns with Hoeven’s continued efforts to reduce the regulatory burden for agriculture producers. His recent efforts include:

  • Stopping the Waters of the U.S. Rule – Hoeven worked through the Appropriations Committee to defund the regulation in 2016 and 2017. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently issued a proposal to restore the regulations that were in place prior to WOTUS, which was issued in 2015. This is the first of two steps established by the executive order signed by the president in February.
  • Ensuring Availability of Fuel Blends – Hoeven is working through the Appropriations Committee to ensure safe, low-volatility biofuels can be sold year round. To this same end, he has cosponsored the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act.
  • Rescinding the Bureau of Land Management’s “Planning 2.0” – Hoeven cosponsored and helped pass a resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal the rule. This maintained multiple-use requirements for federal lands, including grazing.

Capital for Farmers and Ranchers Act 

            In addition, Hoeven urged Glen Smith, nominee to be a member of the Farm Credit Administration Board, to support his Capital for Farmers and Ranchers Act. The senator stressed that the caps under the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) programs have not kept up with the increased capital costs for agriculture, and Smith agreed that the caps should be raised. Accordingly, Hoeven’s legislation would increase the FSA loan guarantee amount from $1.39 million to $2.5 million and double the amount of direct loans from $300,000 to $600,000 for both farm operating loans and farm ownership loans.

2018 Farm Bill

            Hoeven is also using the nomination process as an opportunity to begin working with USDA officials early to help secure needed improvements to the farm bill and ensure agriculture programs are implemented in a way that best serves producers’ needs. The senator continues to meet with farmers and ranchers across North Dakota to gather feedback and outline his priorities for the 2018 farm bill, including:

  • Strong Crop Insurance – The senator is working to strengthen and prevent cuts to the crop insurance program, which is the primary risk management tool for many producers. 
  • Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) – Hoeven secured $5 million for a pilot program in the Senate’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill, and funding in the Senate’s FY 2018 Appropriations bill, to improve the fairness of ARC payment calculations, while exploring long-term solutions to the problem for the next farm bill. 
  • Sugar Program – The senator said he will work to extend the sugar program in a bipartisan manner, ensuring that American producers have a level playing field in the world sugar market.
  • Agriculture Research – Hoeven will work to include strong support for agricultural research, like the work done at North Dakota State University and the North Dakota Extension Service, to enhance crop genetics and production.
  • Drought Support – Hoeven continues working to secure all possible support for farmers and ranchers to help them weather the drought. The senator is also working to improve the livestock assistance programs in the next farm bill and ensure they work for ranchers when needed most.