Following the U.S. Senate's vote to pass the Agricultural Act of 2014 on Feb. 4, Iowa farm leaders applauded and urged President Obama to sign it quickly. It took nearly three years and much discussion to get the bill written and refined, and finally the Senate voted 68 to 32 in favor. The 2014 Farm Bill is now on the President's desk awaiting his signature. He is expected to sign the measure.
"We are relieved and pleased to see the farm bill cross the finish line this afternoon," said Ray Gaesser on Tuesday. He is a farmer from southwest Iowa and president of the American Soybean Association. "Last week's vote in the House and today's vote in the Senate—both accomplished in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion—show that this bill is important to both rural and urban Americans. We've invested a great deal of time and energy in this bill and the final product represents a true compromise that will benefit many crops, regions and aspects of U.S. agriculture."
Some groups, Senator Grassley don't like certain aspects of this bill
Among other things, the bill eliminates controversial direct payments and reinvests its savings into various farm financial safety net programs paid out based on farmers' losses. It also includes a livestock disaster program, changes to conservation programs and advancements for organic and specialty crops.
Despite most ag groups' support, two groups—the National Cattlemen's Association and the National Pork Producers Council—opposed the bill in the House and Senate because it failed to eliminate Country of Origin Labeling provisions. Those provisions, they say, have a negative effect on trade with both Canada and Mexico, and will introduce challenges from the World Trade Organization.
Others says the bill's spending cuts do not go far enough. Some senators voted against it, including Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who is unhappy that his changes to farm program payment limits were not contained in the final House-Senate conference committee version of the bill. He wanted a $40,000 annual limit on primary farm program payments (double that for married couples) but the bill would set a $125,000 payment limit (double that for married couples). Also, the bill removes the House and Senate-passed provisions to close loopholes that currently allow large farms to collect multiples of the normal payment limit.
Iowa Corn Growers Association thanks House, Senate
The Iowa Corn Growers Association applauds both the House and Senate for quick passage of the new 5-year Farm Bill. In particular, Iowa's elected leaders including Senator Harkin and Congressman Braley, King, Latham and Loebsack were instrumental in moving the previously stalled bill forward.
"We are pleased to see some common sense finally prevail in Washington, D.C. in order to reach this compromise," says Roger Zylstra, a farmer from central Iowa and the current president of ICGA. "We are particularly satisfied that we are maintaining and strengthening crop insurance along with a market oriented farm safety net. As we approach planting this spring, it is reassuring to see some certainty in farm planning."
Important provisions of the new Farm Bill include:
Eliminates direct payments
An option to participate in either the revenue-based Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program or a Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program with fixed reference prices.
Improvements in the federal crop insurance program to include a Supplemental Coverage Option for area coverage up to 86% and the Enterprise Unit Discount Pilot Program becoming a permanent program.
Consolidation of 23 previous conservation programs into 13 with a focus on working lands.
Conservation compliance tied to federal crop insurance with no provision for adjusted gross income eligibility criteria to determine premium subsidies.
Maintenance of export promotion programs, including the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD).
Continuation of the combined authorization of both agricultural and nutrition programs; a linkage that has been essential in every farm bill since 1974.
"As a farmer, I am familiar with hard work and long waits for rewards. This Farm Bill took patience, but we were happy to see certain provisions in crop insurance and conservation that will allow us to continue farming the best way possible. No bill is ever perfect, but we believe this legislation is a step in the right direction," says Zylstra.
The Congressional Budget Office announced the net savings of the bill to be $16.6 billion over 10 years. That makes agriculture the only sector contributing to deficit reduction during this Congress.
ISA supports Senate passage of Farm Bill; urges signage and implementation
Iowa Soybean Association president Brian Kemp, farming near Sibley in northwest Iowa, is also pleased with Tuesday's passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014 by the U.S. Senate. "After years of delay, a bipartisan agreement has been reached on important food and farm policy that will guide decisions by farmers while continuing to provide security for all Americans. We encourage President Obama's swift signage," says Kemp.
"The new five-year farm bill is not perfect but does address key production, demand and conservation priorities raised by the Iowa Soybean Association on behalf of Iowa's nearly 45,000 soybean farmers," he says. They include:
A flexible farm safety net that offers a choice between price-based and revenue-based risk management tools.
Maintaining the decoupling of payments from current planted acreage under both programs.
Securing critical agricultural research programs including the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.
Supports demand for U.S. soybeans courtesy of the Foreign Market Development and Market Access Program (soybeans are the nation's top farm export with Iowa often ranking first nationally in soybean production).
Streamlining greater adoption of conservation programs by soybean farmers who are committed to continuously improving environmental performance. This includes the consolidation of 23 previous conservation programs into 13 while focusing conservation activities on working lands.
Supports key energy programs including the Biodiesel Education Program and strengthens the Biobased Markets Program.
"It should also be emphasized that the Farm Bill addresses the nation's important budgetary issues by cutting nearly $24 billion over 10 years, making agriculture the only industry that has contributed to real deficit reduction," says Kemp.
He adds, "ISA has been actively engaged in the Congressional discussions that have led to today's action by the U.S. Senate to ensure that the needs of soybean farmers are represented in this important legislation. We now look forward to working closely with the American Soybean Association, Iowa soybean farmers and local, state and national officials to ensure its successful implementation."
Senator Grassley explains why he voted "No"
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, released the following statement after the Senate passed the Agricultural Act of 2014 by a vote of 68-32. Grassley voted against the measure.
"I'm extremely disappointed that my provisions to place a hard cap on farm payments and better define who can receive those payments were stripped down to such a great extent that they likely won't have much effect. Unfortunately, a few members of the House and Senate placed parochial interests above the broader good for the agricultural community," says Grassley.
"Currently 10% of the wealthiest farmers receive 70% of the benefit from the farm program. This puts small- and medium-sized farms and young and beginning farmers at a disadvantage. These are the very people the farm program is supposed to help. The committee leaders negotiating the final bill struck my simple, common-sense and enforceable provisions from the final bill.
"As a farmer myself, I understand how a five-year farm bill helps with long-term planning, and there are some good things in the bill," says Grassley. "But, I can't turn a blind eye to a select few members dismantling a provision that was passed by wide, bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate."