Hoeven Urges Farm Bill Conferees to Move Quickly and Surely on Long-Term Farm Bill

First Senate-House Farm Bill Conference Committee Meeting Held Today

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today urged his colleagues on the House-Senate farm bill conference committee to work in a bipartisan fashion to find a consensus on agriculture legislation so that Congress can pass a bill by the end of the year. Hoeven was one of a number of Senate and House members to give opening statements at the first meeting of the group.

Both the Senate and the House versions of the legislation focus on enhanced crop insurance. The measure includes a new Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO), continues the sugar program and provides new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) to help producers through years of repetitive losses. The Senate bill saves $24 billion to help reduce the deficit and debt.

“We need to make a strong, long-term farm bill our number-one priority this fall so that by the end of year our producers will have the confidence and tools they need to plan for next year’s growing season,” Hoeven said. “They need to know they have a market-based safety net to deal with volatile markets and weather, and the American people need to know that the nation’s farmers and ranchers can continue to provide them with the highest quality, most affordable food supply in the world.”

Hoeven laid out his priorities for the talks to the group:

  • Enhanced Crop Insurance: The farm bill includes a strong safety net for producers. Hoeven underscored that the safety net in the farm bill is focused on enhanced crop insurance. The legislation enhances crop insurance with the inclusion of the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO). The SCO enables producers to purchase a supplemental policy beyond their individual farm-based policy.
  • Revenue Loss Protection: In addition, the bill features a new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program that covers assistance for multiple-year losses. The program works with crop insurance by covering between 78 and 88 percent of a producer’s historic five-year average revenues based on price and yield.
  • Renewing the Sugar Program: Hoeven has worked hard in a bipartisan way to extend the sugar program in the farm bill, ensuring that American producers have a level playing field in the world sugar market.
  • Renewing the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP): Both versions of the bill would renew the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Livestock Forage Program (LFP) and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) for the life of the farm bill as well as provide coverage for the current fiscal year, since the programs expired in 2011.
  • Conservation: Farmers and ranchers have a vested interest in good stewardship of their land, and both the Senate and House versions of the bill include good conservation tools. Conservation compliance is tied to participation in the farm program, but it should not be tied to crop insurance.
  • Ag Research: The farm bill needs 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.
  • Rural Water Management: The farm bill includes rural water management and flood protection. It includes a Klobuchar-Hoeven-Heitkamp amendment to support flood protection in the Red River Valley, as well as other conservation, rural development and energy programs. The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) consolidates four existing programs into one that will support projects that improve soil quality, water quality or wildlife habitat in a specific area or region, including the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative and the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program. Projects will be implemented through partnership agreements and directly through contracts with eligible producers. Partnership agreements are not to exceed five years.
  • State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement Program (SAFE): The senators touted a part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) called SAFE, which allows producers to create habitat that is beneficial for wildlife. This could be a very good program for both farmers and sportsmen because it will allow farmers to optimize CRP acreage to encourage wildlife populations. States like North Dakota have lost CRP acreage, which has a reduced habitat for a number of sports species like deer and pheasants. Combined with North Dakota’s PLOTS and Coverlocks programs, which make private lands available to hunters, the SAFE program can create more habitats to increase wildlife populations and hunting opportunities.

“A strong farm bill not only benefits every American at the dinner table, but it also helps to grow our economy,” Hoeven said. “Sixteen million Americans, our friends and neighbors, work in the ag sector. And finally, because we don’t have to rely on other countries for our food supply, a strong farm bill makes America safer and more secure.”