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Legislative Watch: Senate passes farm bill; EPA sets RFS targets; July 4 meal more affordable.
June 29, 2018
The Senate passed overwhelmingly its farm bill by a strong bipartisan vote of 86-11. The bill maintains a strong safety net for farmers by protecting commodity programs and crop insurance. It provides additional funds for energy, conservation, research and organic agriculture.
The Senate did not include the strict work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as provided in the House bill. Over 500 agriculture, conservation and nutrition groups stated their support for the bill.
A number of concerning amendments to the agriculture community regarding crop insurance, sugar reform, state meat inspection and the Packers and Stockyards Act were not considered. An amendment by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) to reform commodity checkoff programs was soundly defeated.
Sens. John Kennedy (R-LA) and Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) amendment to tighten the work requirements for SNAP recipients was overwhelmingly defeated.
Other provisions included:
• Vaccine bank — Authorizes a vaccine bank but does not provide mandatory funding.
• Trade promotion programs — Reauthorizes the Foreign Market Development Program at $34.5 million and Market Access Program at $200 million. Also establishes a $6 million Trade Priority Fund that USDA can use to provide additional funding for FMD, MAP, emerging markets or Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops.
• Payment limitations — Tightens the definition of farm management for the purpose of qualifying for commodity programs. Farm operations would be restricted to having one non-farming manager who could qualify for $125,000 per year in farm subsidies as a manager. Active farm management would be defined as providing at least 500 hours of management for the farm annually or providing at least 25% of the total management hours required for the operation.
• Conservation Reserve Program — The CRP would be increased to 25 million acres compared to the current 24 million acres. The increase in acres would be paid for by capping CRP payments at 88.5% of the local rental rates. Also provides for greater flexibility for haying and grazing on CRP acres.
• EQIP — The funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program would increase from $1.473 billion in 2019 to $1.595 billion by 2023. Half of the funding would be set aside for livestock producers.
• Livestock dealers trust — USDA is to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of establishing a livestock statutory trust.
• SNAP — The bill provides funding for pilot programs that study approaches to assist SNAP recipients find jobs or higher-paying jobs. It does not adopt the House approach of expanded work requirements for SNAP recipients.
The House and Senate Agriculture Committees will begin conference on the two passed bills the week of July 9. There are a number of key differences between the two bills including SNAP work requirements, payment limitations and conservation. The goal is to have a new farm bill completed before the current bill expires on Sept. 30.
EPA sets 2019 RFS targets
The Environmental Protection Agency announced its proposed rule that sets the 2019 targets for the production of renewable fuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard. The proposed rule would increase total volumes by 3% over 2018 levels, from 19.29 billion gallons to 19.88 billion gallons.
EPA’s specific proposal:
• Conventional renewable fuel (corn ethanol) — maintained at 15 billion gallons
• Advanced biofuels standard — increased from 4.29 billion gallons to 4.88 billion gallons
• Cellulosic biofuel — increased from 288 million gallons to 381 million gallons
• Biodiesel — increased from 2.1 billion in gallons remains the same in 2019 but increases to 2.43 billion gallons in 2020
A major concern of the biofuels industry is the EPA did not take into consideration the lost gallons that have been lost due to the waivers EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has given to refiners. The National Corn Growers Association called on the EPA to reallocate the 1.6 billion gallons the EPA has waived from the 2016 and 2017 volume requirements.
Two strong Congressional supporters of the renewable fuels industry were not pleased with the EPA’s announcement because it did not address the lost gallons of ethanol production because of the increased number of waiver the EPA is approving for refiners. Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN), ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, says, “The damage inflicted on the biofuels industry by the EPA exempting major refineries from their RFS obligations far outweighs the minor volume increases in its proposed rule. Our corn and soybean farmers are fed up with EPA undermining the RFS, and the harm being done by the administration’s trade war. Enough is enough.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) says, “The proposed uptick in the amount of renewable fuel that refiners blend into transportation fuel is encouraging, but does not make up for about 1.5 billion gallons lost by Administrator Pruitt’s decision to hand out an unprecedented number of small refinery waivers.”
July 4 meal more affordable this year
When grilling this July 4 with family and friends, the meal for 10 individuals will cost less than $6 per person or down 1% from last year according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual survey. The average cost of a summer cookout for 10 people is $55.07. The meal includes hot dogs and buns, cheeseburgers and buns, pork spare ribs, deli potato salad, baked beans, corn chips, watermelon, lemonade, chocolate milk, ketchup and mustard. According to the AFBF, the farmer’s share of this $55.07 meal would be $8.15.
Vice President, Bockorny Group, Inc.
Scott Shearer is vice president of the Bockorny Group Inc., a leading bipartisan government affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. With more than 30 years experience in government and corporate relations in state and national arenas, he is recognized as a leader in agricultural trade issues, having served as co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-China Trade and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Trade Promotion Authority. Scott was instrumental in the passage of China Permanent Normal Trade Relations and TPA. He is past chairman of the USDA-USTR Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products and was a member of the USAID Food Security Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Bockorny Group, Scott served as director of national relations for Farmland Industries Inc., as well as USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (1993-96), serving as liaison for the Secretary of Agriculture and the USDA to Congress.
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