Farm leaders talk farm bill with Sen. Baucus

MFBF President Bob Hanson and MFBF Vice President of Government Relations John Youngberg participated in a round table discussion on the farm bill with Senator Max Baucus Oct. 23 in Fort Benton. Hanson said Farm Bureau would specifically support an emphasis on a strong and affordable crop insurance; reauthorization and mandatory funding of the livestock disaster program; streamlining conservation programs; continued funding for export market promotion programs; and providing producers a choice of safety net program options.

Hanson talked about Farm Bureau’s opposition to limiting participation in programs based on income levels. “Farm Bureau has a long history of opposing means testing of farm program benefits, regardless of the program in question. These kinds of arbitrary tests are just that, arbitrary limits placed on productive farmers and ranchers that are often among the most innovative and progressive producers in agriculture,” said Hanson. “Penalizing farmers’ and ranchers’ productivity often works at cross purposes to the underlying policy goal and can drive producers into financial structures that only make sense in the context of one means test or another. Two policy areas where the imposition of means testing works at cross policy purposes in particular are in conservation and crop insurance.”

Youngberg noted that tying conservation compliance into crop insurance could have an opposite result as intended. “For conservation payments, precluding larger operations from receiving support forces producers to consider opting out of, or never entering these programs,” Youngberg said.

He said because their livelihood depends on managing an economic resource, they must consider putting or keeping land into production because payment limits remove access to any economic offset for placing or leaving the land in a conservation use. “That is completely the opposite of the goal of the conservation programs,” Youngberg said.

Youngberg said the House need to remain firm in keeping provisions that modify the exemption levels of EPA’s Spill Prevention and Containment Program (SPCC) rules for small farmers and ranchers. These rules require producers to construct a containment facility around the above-ground oil tanks.

At the roundtable discussion with Senator Baucus later in the day in Lewistown, former MFBF President Dave McClure talked with him about Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rules. “COOL needs to be WTO compliant,” said McClure. “We believe it can be compliant with trade rules with no adverse affect on cattle producers.”

Farm Bureau’s two main concerns for the upcoming farm bill conference are to ensure that a complete, uniform farm bill continues and that permanent law is not repealed and that eliminating a meaningful nutrition title will make it difficult for the Senate and House to reach an agreement on a final version, which is desperately needed.

–Mont. Farm Bureau