In response to the Senate Agriculture Committee's passage of Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) issued the following comment:
The draft farm bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee today is laudable for its strong support for America’s family farmers and ranchers. This bill includes much-needed funding increases and critical policy improvements on key sustainable agriculture priorities, including: local and regional food systems, rural business development, conservation, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, crop insurance, and research.
NSAC applauds the Committee for putting forward a strong manager’s amendment, which included numerous policy improvements programs that will increase underserved producers’ access to land and programs, improve coordination between working lands conservation programs, advance value-added agriculture, and support conservation opportunities for organic producers.
We thank Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) for working to modify a highly problematic amendment – Hoeven 1, offered by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) – to double loan limits for Farm Service Agency Direct and Guaranteed Farm Ownership and Operating Loans. This amendment, as offered, would have severely disadvantaged beginning and historically underserved farmers and limited their access to vital credit and loan opportunities. While NSAC continues to oppose major increases to loan caps, we appreciate that Senator Klobuchar’s second-degree amendment makes important changes to Hoeven 1, including new reporting requirements on target participation rates and a reduction in the increases to loan caps. NSAC is committed to continuing to work with Congress members in both the House and Senate to ensure that any increases to FSA loan caps are measured against current program usage and demand, historical funding levels, and performance targets with respect to lending to underserved borrowers.
We thank Senators Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD) for successfully championing an amendment to authorize the expansion of an existing grassland protection provision, known as “Sodsaver,” to the entire country. Sodaver limits grassland loss by reducing crop insurance premium subsidies on land that is broken out from native prairie. As the Senate bill moves from the Committee to the floor and beyond, NSAC will continue to work with Congress to secure a mandatory Sodsaver provision that applies across all states.
We are deeply disappointed that an amendment by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to restore accountability and fairness to Title I was not able to come to a vote due to a procedural requirement issued just this morning. The amendment would have placed a hard cap on the total amount of commodity program payments and benefits any one farm can receive annually, and would have strengthened “actively engaged” rules to ensure that large operations cannot endlessly multiply payments by adding non-farm investors. This was an outrageous turn of events and a missed opportunity to close egregious loopholes once and for all. We regret that this bill could not be introduced and we look forward to continuing to work with Senator Grassley and others to secure these reforms as the bill moves to the floor.
The voices of America’s family farmers and ranchers have been heard and represented in the bill passed today by the Senate Agriculture Committee. While there are certainly important improvements yet to be made, particularly with regard to payment limits and actively engaged rules, we believe this bipartisan bill gives champions of sustainable agriculture and family farms an excellent position from which to continue negotiating a final farm bill. We look forward to continuing to work with members of both the House and the Senate to deliver an on-time 2018 Farm Bill that protects family farmers and ranchers, our natural resources, and American families.
Information provided by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.