Many of the 150 farmers, ranchers and environmentalists who
attended the USDA's first farm bill field hearing July 14 in Spokane,
Washington complained that too much federal farm regulation has
resulted in the squeezing of farmers' profits and the discouragement
of environmental stewardship.
"We have more requirements and less incentives," said Read Smith, a
Washington farmer. "As time goes on, producers will be asked to
produce more and receive less." Smith notedthat farmers who
presently fail to meet environmental standards are penalized, but
those who exceed standards are not rewarded.
Assistant Agriculture Secretary for Natural Resources and the
Environment James Lyons assured the Spokane crowd that the
administration aims to "design a system that achieves the dual goals
we have: that is, good land stewardship and profitability for the
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the House Agriculture Subcommittee
on General Farm Commodities heard similar testimony in favor of
programs that reward farmers for environmental stewardship and
encourge marketing flexibility.
Ferd Hoefner of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition told the
subcommittee proposals to create an Environmental Reserve Program
are being developed to replace the Acreage Reduction Program
(ARP). Hoefner explained that under the Environmental Reserve
plan some of the money allocated for deficiency payments would be
used to pay farmers to reduce production in an environmentally
beneficial way. Currently farmers must set aside a required number
of acres under the ARP program in order to qualify for deficiency
The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) told the committee it
would push for a program that combines crop base acres and
historic oilseed and alfalfa acres to create a "freedom acreage base."
Under the proposal, farmers could shift up to 25 percent of the
combined acreage to any eligible crop. "Flexibility that will allow
producers to shift the use of productive resources in response to
market, environmental and conservation considerations remains an
important goal," said Pete Wenstrand, NCGA president.
Sources: Luis Cabrera, "Farmers Push for Incentives Over Fines in
New Farm Bill," FARM & RANCH GUIDE, July 29, 1994; SENTER ON THE
HILL, August, 1994; Gordon S. Carlson, "Aid to Large Farms,
Environment Issues Are Focus of Early Farm Bill Hearing,"
FEEDSTUFFS, July 18, 1994.
House Passes Disaster Aid Reform Package
The House passed a bill Friday that aims to cut the government's
annual $2.4 billion disaster-aid costs by requiring more farmers to
participate in the federal crop insurance program. If the Senate
approves a similar measure, farmers will be required to pay a $50
administrative fee to redeem crop insurance benefits. The measure
eliminates the need the for emergency crop disaster bills as
authorized in the 1990 farm bill. The Senate is scheduled to vote on
the bill soon.
Sources: "House Passes Bill to Cut Farm Disaster-Aid Costs," WALL
STREET JOURNAL, August 8, 1994; Juan Miguel Pedrazza, "House
Covers Crops and Farmers," AGWEEK, August 8, 1994; Robert Greene,
"Crop Insurance," AP, August 5, 1994.
Espy: All Farm Programs Up for Debate
Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy told reporters following a Future
Farmers of America State Presidents' conference that all farm
programs will be up for debate under the 1995 farm bill.
"Everything is on the table, nothing is sacrosanct," Espy said.
Espy listed several program options currently being considered by
the USDA, including continuing deficiency payments, income support
and whether "we eliminate subsidies altogether."
Joseph Glaubner, the Agriculture Department's principal consultant
predicted that Congress would create a pilot program based on the
Iowa Revenue Assurance plan, which could be expanded if
Under the Iowa plan farmers would no longer be paid a per bushel
subsidy. Instead, the federal government would make payments
only to farmers who have suffered severe income losses as the result
of a drought, flood or collapse in market prices. And then it would
pay a farmer only enough to restore their revenue for that year to
70 percent of their average revenue during the previous five years.
The USDA calculates that under the Iowa plan, farmers would end up
receiving less than half the income subsidy they currently receive.
Sources: "No Farm Programs Sacred in 1995 Farm Bill -- Espy,"
REUTER, July 27, 1994; Richard Orr, "Illinois, Iowa Farmers Devising
Plans to Continue Government Subsidies," CHICAGO TRIBUNE, August
8, 1994; Peter T. Kilborn, "Iowa Farmers Rebel Against Subsidies,
Seeking New Setup," NEW YORK TIMES, July 25, 1994.
House Rejects Dairy Self-Help GATT Bill
The House Agriculture Committee voted 12-10 against including a
dairy "self-help" ammendment in a GATT implementing legislation
package. Gary Hanman, chief executive officer of MidAmerica
Dairymen, Inc., said prospects for Senate approval of the bill are slim.
"At best it's an extreme long shot," Hanman said. Instead he
predicted "the self-help concept will be part of the 1995 farm bill."
The self-help bill, sponsored by Representative Harold Volkmer (D-
Missouri), aims to create an industry board that would export
surplus dairy products at world market prices.
Source: Joel McNair, "Dairy 'Self-Help' Plan Turned Down," AGRI-
VIEW, August 5, 1994.
Clean Water Act Likely On Hold Until Farm Bill
Chances of the Clean Water Act being rewritten simultaneously with
the 1995 farm bill or as part of farm legislation are reportedly
The KIPLINGER AGRICULTURE LETTER notes "some EPA officials are
eyeing the farm bill as a way to attack nonpoint pollution ... [and]
figure many of their goals on reducing sediment and chemical runoff
could be accomplished as easily by changing USDA programs as with
whole new programs run by EPA itself."
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) implied in a July 25 ROLL CALL
article that he would seek to orient 1995 farm bill legislation more
toward the preservation of water quality. "I drafted the 1990 farm
bill with the Clean Water Act in mind," Leahy wrote. "It is my
intention that the 1995 farm bill continue this effort."
The Clean Water Act, currenlty under consideration in Congress, was
established in 1972 to protect and maintain the quality of America's
Sources: Senator Patrick Leahy, "Cleaner Water? Farm Bill Can Help
Too," ROLL CALL, July 25, 1994; "Field Narrowing for Late Hill
Action," CONGRESSDAILY, August 8, 1994; KIPLINGER AGRICULTURE
LETTER, August 5, 1994.
Farm Groups Push for Export Policy Changes
A host of farm organizations are pushing for redefinition of the
Export Enhancement Program (EEP) in light of GATT implementation
requirements and next year's farm law. The National Association of
Wheat Growers, the Texas Farm Bureau and the National Council of
Farmer Cooperatives testified unanimously during a House
Subcomittee meeting in favor of fully funding and aggressively
utilizing export development tools, like EEP, to boost U.S. farm sales.
EEP was created as part of the 1985 farm bill to target foreign
markets for U.S. exports by competing directly with subsidized
European export sales. EEP is slated for $1 billion worth of spending
cuts to pay for GATT. Lawmakers, led by Representative Jill Long
(D- Indiana), are calling on the Clinton administration to redirect EEP
funds targeted for GATT cuts to other export promotion programs
allowable under the trade pact.
Sources: Jenny Tomkins, "U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Redefine Ag
Subsidy Programs," REUTER, July 27, 1994; "Farm Groups Voice
Concers as Farm Bill Debate Opens," MILLING & BAKING NEWS,
August 9, 1994.
Midwest, Plains Grain Farmers Affected Most by Changes in Farm
An article in the July issue of AGRICULTURAL OUTLOOK (AO) notes
that households operating cash grain farms in the Midwest and
Northern Plains "would be most affected by any changes in
commodity programs." Over two-thirds of all program payments are
made to producers who operate in the 14 Midwest and Plains states.
Source: "Commodity Programs & Farm-Rural Economies,"
AGRICULTURAL OUTLOOK, July, 1994.
Final Farm Bill Hearing: Thursday, August 11, Harbor Inn,
Sacramento, California. If you are unable to attend the forum, but
want to offer the USDA your views, write "Listening Project," Soil and
Water Conservation Society, 7515 Northeast Ankeny Road, Ankeny,
IA 50021-9764. All comments received prior to August 15 will be
forwarded to the USDA.
Produced by Gigi DiGiacomo, The Institute for Agriculture and Trade
Policy, 1313 5th Sreet SE, Suite 303, Minneapolis, MN 55414-1546.
(612) 379-5980. Fax: (612) 379-5982. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The
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