Hoeven: We Need To Get a Farm Bill, Goal is to Get Agreement to House Floor By Second Week of December

MINOT, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today told a large gathering of Farmers Union members that we need to get a farm bill yet this year. The goal, he said, is to get an agreement to the House floor by the second week of December so that the Senate can vote the following week. As a member of the House-Senate farm bill conference committee, the senator is working to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the bill.

“North Dakota farmers and ranchers need the certainty that comes with a long-term reauthorization of the farm bill, and we’re doing all we can to put good legislation in place by the end of the year,” Hoeven said. “The window of opportunity to pass a farm bill conference report by January is quickly closing, but we’re working hard to arrive at an agreement by December 13, when the House adjourns for the year. We can then move it to the Senate floor for a vote the next week.”

The new legislation in both the Senate and the House versions focuses 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.

Hoeven outlined additional farm bill priorities important to Farmers Union members, including:

  • Fixed Reference Price Program: Proposed in the House farm bill. The recent dip in commodity prices highlights the importance of having protection against price collapse. The senator is working for inclusion of a reference price component to the farm safety net in the final farm bill agreement.
  • Livestock Disaster Assistance: This year’s blizzard in the Dakotas has made clear to everyone in the ag world how important a strong livestock disaster assistance program is to our ranchers. Both the House and Senate farm bills reauthorize the existing livestock disaster programs. Hoeven is working to include the House version of the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), which pays ranchers on the same percentage of their losses as the 2008 Farm Bill: 75 percent as opposed to 65 percent in the Senate bill. He is also working to ensure that adverse weather-related disease losses, including pneumonia, are covered by LIP.
  • Mandatory COOL: Hoeven continues to push for mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). The conference committee has not yet decided this issue because there is significant concern among some conferees about retaliation by our trading partners. This issue may be one of the last issues decided.
  • Energy Title: Hoeven and former Senator Kent Conrad pressed for a strong energy title in the farm bill the Senate passed last year, which was carried over into the 2013 Senate farm bill. The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), Biorefinergy Assistance Program, and Biobased Markets Program have all been included in this year’s Senate farm bill. Hoeven sponsored the 2012 amendment in the Ag Committee markup to ensure REAP could be used for blender pumps. This technology has been a big success in North Dakota, and if deployed nationwide, could help alleviate potential blend wall issues in a way that provides consumers greater choice.
  • Conservation Compliance Tied to Crop Insurance: The senator has worked hard to ensure conservation compliance is decoupled from crop insurance. Existing conservation compliance should be reformed rather than burden producers with additional regulations. This issue hasn’t been settled by the conferees, and ensuring crop insurance isn’t tied to conservation compliance remains one of Hoeven’s top priorities. Meanwhile, he continues to work to reform existing conservation compliance regulations. For instance, to resolve the problems with wetlands determinations maps, he has introduced legislation to ensure all of the NRCS maps from 1990 to 1996 are regarded as official certifications.

“Our number one priority is to pass a strong, long-term farm bill that will provide producers with the safety net they need to deal with volatile markets and weather, while ensuring that the American people continue to enjoy the highest quality, most affordable food supply in the world,” Hoeven said. “A strong farm bill not only benefits North Dakota, but also every American. That includes consumers, producers, our economy and the 16 million Americans who work in the ag sector.”