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Ag Groups Testify on Farm Bill Priorities

(WASHINGTON D.C.) – Corn, soybean, wheat, and other commodity groups weighed in on 2023 farm bill priorities during the second half of a two-part House Ag panel hearing Wednesday. Protecting crop insurance against payment limits and means testing remain commodity groups’ number one farm bill priority.

National Corn Growers President Tom Haag laid out his group’s top 2023 farm bill priorities. Haag; “Protecting the federal crop insurance, strengthening the producer safety net, bolstering U.S. international market developments, and supporting voluntary conservation programs.”

Haag and other commodity leaders joined General Farm Commodities Chair Austin Scott in complaining that PLC and ARC reference prices set in 2012 are way outdated. Haag; “The current statutory reference price for corn is 3-dollars-and-70-cents per bushel, well below the current market price and long-term historical average prices.”

Haag called for boosting the effective reference price escalator above its current 115-percent cap.

American Soybean Association head and Columbia, Illinois grower Daryl Cates offered ASA’s perspectives on the 2023 Farm Bill and asked for help with two priorities under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction. The first was protecting crop insurance.

Cates; “We must protect crop insurance. Crop insurance is the most effective and important component of the farm safety net for soybean farmers. It helps us manage risk and secure operating credit from lenders each year.”

Cates echoed calls by corn and other commodity groups to update ARC and PLC reference prices, citing the China trade war as one example of why. He said; “If a trade war that shrunk soybean demand by over 30 percent hardly triggered the farm safety net provided in the current farm bill, it is difficult to envision a scenario that would provide meaningful assistance without significant improvements to the current reference price and program elements of ARC and PLC.”

And Cates says the disparity between planted acres and base acres used to figure benefits left over 30 million soybean acres unprotected last year, prompting ASA’s call to allow base updating. National Association of Wheat Growers head Brent Cheyne argued low reference prices, high costs, and poor weather are creating a “perfect storm” for producers.

Cheyne said; “My written testimony shows the impact of inflation, high interest rates, and severe drought are already having on farmers’ bottom line. High prices are meaningless when there’s nothing to harvest, which many farmers in winter-wheat producing areas of our country are now experiencing this year.”

National Sorghum Producers Chair Craig Meeker also testified during the hearing. “It’s clear that more resources will be necessary to enact a strong farm bill this year as there’s a major shortfall of funding compared to previous bills,” Meeker says. He also reaffirmed his group’s support for crop insurance, noting that he would not be the sixth generation on his family farm without it. Crop insurance has been critical in managing an ongoing drought.

USA Rice Chairman Kirk Satterfield credited House Ag for seeking a higher farm bill funding baseline need to update the support trigger. Satterfield said; “The cost of production being so much higher than 2012, it’s just a completely different world that we live in now, as far as pricing and input costs, it really needs to be relevant for the PLC to work.”

Others called for more support for buy-up crop insurance, more research dollars and a move away from ad hoc disaster aid that’s added 70 billion above farm bill costs over six-years. Cheyne and ASA’s Cates acknowledged meeting current needs will take more money. Cates says ASA led 400 groups in writing the Budget Committee to boost farm bill funding.

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