North Dakota Farmers Union update

Twenty-eight NDFU members participated in the National Farmers Union Fly-In this past week in Washington, D.C. During the fly-in, NDFU members discussed the upcoming Farm Bill with North Dakota’s congressional delegation and other congressional offices. Members continued NDFU’s push for higher Price Loss Coverage references prices and a “dual enrollment option” that would provide an alternative to the annual election between Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC).
NDFU also advocated for farmer-friendly climate provisions in the farm bill. Beyond traditional farm bill issues, NDFU members urged action on competition issues, including country-of-origin labeling (COOL) and transparency in cattle markets. Over 300 farmers and ranchers from across the country attended the fly-in. A full list of the NFU Fly-In priorities is here.
In addition to meetings on Capitol Hill, NDFU members also met with several executive branch officials about key issues. The fly-in opened with a briefing from Sec. Tom Vilsack and other key leaders about USDA’s work to create new opportunities for farmers and ranchers. NDFU members also discussed COOL with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, competition with Department of Justice staff, WOTUS and renewable fuels with EPA staff, and broader economic issues with White House staff.
One of Farmers Union’s top priorities is addressing the FSA staffing shortage. NDFU members heard from key USDA officials about that issue and met with the Office of Management and Budget to address chronic challenges with FSA employees’ compensation.

USDA projects a $19 billion agricultural trade deficit for the 2023 fiscal year. This is the third year out of the last five that the U.S. has registered an agricultural trade deficit, after 60 straight years of trade surpluses. While ag exports have been historically high over the last three years, imports have risen at an even faster rate. The deficit is expected to grow to $27.5 billion in 2024. A bipartisan group of lawmakers are forming an Agricultural Trade Caucus to promote common sense trade policy.  
Senate Agriculture Committee leaders staked out positions on one of the key debates this farm bill: the fate of Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) conservation funds. A blog post from the Senate Agriculture Committee Republicans argues that IRA funds should be rolled into the Farm Bill baseline. The blog states that 51% of conservation practices are not eligible for IRA funding. Sen. Debbie Stabenow released a statement countering that IRA funding benefits all farmers and is necessary to bolster USDA conservation programs.
The IRA funds are one of the only options lawmakers have for addressing farm bill funding challenges. Republicans have been targeting the funds to use for other priorities, including bolstering the farm safety net. Meanwhile, Democrats have drawn a hard line on using the funds to support climate-smart agriculture practices. Vilsack made protecting the IRA funds a key theme of his “whiteboard talk” with NFU Fly-In participants.
The House agriculture appropriations bill is “dead” after a controversial abortion provision divided the Republican majority. The bill was originally slated for a floor vote in late July but stalled out amid controversy over the abortion provision and Freedom Caucus demands for more cuts. Democrats had already vowed to oppose the bill, because it includes $8 billion in rescissions, leaving the bill with a very narrow path to passage.
The Senate, on the other hand, is expected to pass an Agriculture-Military-Transportation “minibus” next week. The Senate approved a procedural motion on that bill with an 85-12 vote earlier this week. The Senate will have the clear upper hand in negotiations with the House over USDA funding. However, with the Sep. 30 deadline looming, both chambers will have to approve a stopgap measure soon to avoid a government shutdown.

–North Dakota Farmers Union