Hoeven Statement on Farm Bill Conference Committee Agreement

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) today released the following statement after signing the 2018 Farm Bill conference report, which strengthens the farm safety net and provides important tools to help see North Dakota farmers and ranchers through hard times. Hoeven is a member of the conference committee, the fourth highest ranking majority member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee. 

“Our producers need the certainty that comes with the passage of a five-year farm bill,” Hoeven said. “Good farm policy benefits every American, every day, and that’s why we we’re working to pass the final farm bill before the end of the year. We worked hard with our fellow conferees to find agreement and now we need to pass this legislation as soon as possible. This long-term farm bill provides producers with the tools they need to succeed now and in the coming years.”  

Hoeven outlined priorities he worked to include in the final farm bill, including:

  • Maintaining Crop Insurance: The farm bill maintains strong crop insurance policy.
  • Improving Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) & 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 Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program to allow reference prices to increase if commodity prices rise significantly over the years and permits nationwide yield updates. 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 provides producers interim financing at harvest time to meet cash flow needs without having to sell their commodities when market prices are typically at harvest-time lows.
  • FSA Guaranteed and Direct Loans: The senator worked to maintain FSA loan increases he included in the Senate bill during conference. It increases 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 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 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 and includes increased funding for other USDA research programs included in the Senate version. 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.
  • Maintains the Water Bank Program.
  • Honey Bee Storage: Includes a Hoeven provision that would allow beekeepers to apply for the Farm Storage Facility Loan Program, which enables successful applicants to obtain low-interest loans for construction of farm storage facilities. The storage of beehives is not currently in the acceptable uses of the program, however the Hoeven language would make “temporary refrigerated beehive storage facility” eligible for the program. 
  • Opioid Grant Funding for Rural Communities: Includes legislation Hoeven sponsored to help rural communities combat the opioid abuse epidemic. The legislation directs the USDA Rural Health and Safety Education Competitive Grants Program to give priority to applicants in rural communities that would use the grants for substance abuse education, treatment and prevention efforts.
  • 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, including expanded support for Tribal Colleges and Universities, as well as continuation of the USDA Tribal Advisory Committee to provide technical assistance to the Secretary of Agriculture. The bill also includes a technical fix for names of Tribal Colleges and Universities including Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College in New Town, ND.