News and Views
NAWG at Thick and Thin of Things in Heat of Farm Bill Debate!
Here’s how the farm bill drama stood as of this writing mid-December: the U.S. House had passed its version of a post “Freedom to Farm” bill. The Senate was debating its version, amidst a
flurry of amendments and counter-amendments. It’s appearing more likely that senate action will be delayed until after Christmas. We remain hopeful that a conference committee of lawmakers from both chambers
will come up with a hybridized version, so to speak, for President Bush to sign into law early in 2002.
Following are key provisions that the National Association of Wheat Growers is urging lawmakers to include in the final bill:
· At least $48.886 billion in spending for program crops as defined in the House Bill, HB2646.
· A three-tiered farm price support delivery mechanism:
1. A fair and equitable marketing loan program that does not influence producer decisions or distort production.
2. A decoupled fixed payment, available to producers to more predictably cover production costs and stabilize his ability to receive adequate financing.
3. A decoupled counter-cyclical safety net triggered when prices fall below predetermined support levels.
· All decoupled payments made on 85% of base production.
· Total support level of $4.25 for wheat or a ratio of 1.6/1, wheat to corn (actual 1995-99 total income was $4.26 for wheat and $2.49 for corn, for a ratio of 1.71/1.)
· Fixed Payment at the 1999 level for all commodities payable Dec. 1 of the fiscal year.
· Marketing loan level for wheat of at least $2.85 and a ratio of not less than 1.5/1, wheat to corn.
· Established marketing loan levels to be designated as floors.
· Average price used to determine payments based on average of five marketing months for each crop.
· Base options:
1. Current program contract acres plus the average of the acres used for recent oilseed payment program, the total of which cannot exceed the cropland acres on the farm.
2. Average acres planted or considered planted (prevent plant acres) to a program crop and/or oilseed for the years 1998-2001, not to exceed total cropland acres.
· New conservation spending should not come at the expense of farm program crop support.
· Strongly support a 10-year farm bill.
NAWG leaders began to construct a new farm bill plan for lawmakers to consider back in 1999, almost three years ago.
It was realistic in scope, and inclusive of other program crops. Now it appears that the centerpiece of the NAWG proposal, a counter-cyclical payment, will become a key component of the new farm law.
Importantly, the NAWG stood firm in urging that a farm bill be completed now, rather than later. Some farm groups and policy makers wanted to shelve the farm bill debate until 2003. The NAWG
sensed that this would be a mistake; that farm spending would be cut if the new farm bill was postponed.
Some Beltway insiders who have gotten an early peek at federal budget proposals for 2003 reaffirm that the NAWG was correct in its assumption.
Al Skogen, immediate past president of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association and the NAWG’s current domestic policy chairman, deserves a special note of credit. The Valley City, ND, producer was
instrumental in drafting the NAWG’s counter-cyclical plan, and donated countless, unpaid hours away from his family and farm explaining the merits of the plan, never straying from a businesslike, professional
The NAWG is hardly the best-funded farm group in the nation, and it does not have the most members.
That’s what makes the NAWG’s accomplishments on Capitol Hill all the more remarkable. Not all of the NAWG’s objectives will be included, but the new farm law will still include an impressive share of NAWG-supported provisions. NAWG supporters can indeed be proud of their organization’s involvement in developing the new farm bill.
“Association Perspectives” represents the views of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, South Dakota Wheat Inc., and the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers, which publishes Prairie Grains
along with the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council.