We have the highest quality, lowest cost food supply thanks to the hard work of our nation’s farmers and ranchers. That’s why, as a member of the farm bill conference committee, I worked to ensure that the final 2018 farm bill provides our producers with the tools they need to succeed. Good farm policy benefits every American, every day – and this farm bill is good, strong policy, which is why the Senate approved it 87-13.
The final bill builds on strengths from both the Senate-passed bill and the House-passed bill to provide producers with the best possible farm bill. Importantly, it maintains strong crop insurance, which is the primary risk management tool for many producers.
At the same time, it improves the counter-cyclical safety-net. The final bill includes a proposal I included in the Senate version that will help reduce disparities from county to county under the Agriculture Risk Coverage program. It also includes an increase to the plug yield in ARC and uses trend adjusted yields under ARC. The bill updates the Price Loss Coverage program to allow reference prices to increase if commodity prices rise significantly over the years and permits nationwide yield updates. Additionally, farmers will be allowed to make a new election between ARC and PLC in 2019, again in 2021 and annually in the following years.
While the bill strengthens risk management tools, it also ensures that producers have access to the capital they need to run their operations. The final bill includes a modified version of my Capital for Farmers and Ranchers Act. It increases Farm Service Agency’s Guaranteed Operation and Ownership Loans from $1.399 million to $1.75 million, Direct Operating Loans from $300,000 to $400,000 and Direct Ownership Loans from $300,000 to $600,000. This increased credit is especially helpful to young producers and will help encourage a new generation to begin farming.
Additionally, the final bill provides strong support for agriculture research – like the innovative work being done at North Dakota State University and the North Dakota Extension Service. This will help ensure that our producers have the tools they need to protect crops from pest and disease, while also improving yields.
Additionally, as a member of the conference committee, I worked to ensure that the final farm bill:
Makes conservation programs more farmer-friendly.
The final bill defends private property rights of farmers and ranchers by rejecting a proposal to authorize permanent easements.
Improves the quality of the wetland appeals process by requiring the Natural Resources Conservation Service to conduct a site visit with participants after an appeal has been filed.
Directs the NRCS to report the number of wetland acres in North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa that have been delineated and are less than one acre.
Maintains strong sugar policy.
Supports agricultural trade by consolidating and providing strong funding for the Market Access, Foreign Market Development, Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops and the Emerging Market Programs.
Maintains authorization for the Water Bank Program.
Includes key provisions from the CROPS for Indian Country Act to promote agribusiness in Indian country and strengthen tribal self-governance for USDA programs.
Provides a competitive grant program to help rural communities to combat opioid abuse.
Bringing this bill across the finish line before Christmas is an important achievement, and I worked hard to do just that, because our farmers and ranchers deserve the certainty that comes with a long-term farm bill.