Farm Bill Meets Needs of Rural America
I couldn’t be happier to make the following announcement: Congress has passed a Farm Bill that I fully support because this legislation meets rural America’s most pressing needs.
As I meet with my Agriculture Leadership Committees throughout the 4th District, they provide me with important first-hand accounts of the difficulties our producers face. They also provide me with invaluable insights into the solutions that would be the most beneficial for rural America. Armed with this knowledge, I have used my position on the House Agriculture Committee to ensure that the Farm Bill reflects the feedback I have received.
And, for the most part, it surely does. Here are some of the important provisions I worked to include in the Farm Bill as a result of these consultations:
- The number one risk management tool for our producers is crop insurance. We were able to protect our essential federal crop insurance program.
- A top priority of my Ag Leadership Committees was to reform CRP payments. The Farm Bill does this, reducing payment amounts to 90% for continuous contracts and 85% for general contracts. This change makes putting the land to productive use more attractive, because rent is now priced more competitively with CRP contracts.
- Our producers have made one thing very clear: enhancing their ability to trade agricultural goods into foreign markets is one of the most significant things that we can do to help the farm economy. As I requested, the Farm Bill contained full combined funding of $255,000,000/yr for the Market Access Program, the Foreign Market Development, technical assistance for specialty crops, and Emerging Markets program. These programs are specifically designed to increase trade by opening new markets, and expanding existing markets, for Iowa’s agricultural goods.
- Preserving our rural communities requires making farming an attractive option for younger people. The Farm Bill has increased the limits of loan guarantees that are now available through FSA’s “Beginning Farmer” loan program. The new loan limits are now: $1,750,000 for guaranteed loans (up from $1,400,000), $400,000 for direct operating loans (up from $300,000), and $600,000 for direct farm ownership loan limits (up from $300,000).
- As farming practices become more high-tech reliant, improved internet service in rural communities becomes even more important. This bill acknowledges this by increasing the minimum standard for broadband internet service in rural areas.
- A sudden disease outbreak, especially of diseases like Foot and Mouth Disease, is always a concern for livestock producers. This legislation not only sets up a FMD Vaccine Bank, but it also contains language that will allow the USDA to promote the development of a GMO vaccine that can be produced in the United States. This change is the direct result of several meetings that I helped organize at ISU where it became clear to me that the U.S. needs to be in control of our own production of vaccines rather than depend on foreign countries. I have discussed this frequently with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who understands the issue very well.
- I requested “Genome to Phenome” language sought by Iowa State University to be included in the base text of the Farm Bill, and am happy to report that it was included and survived the conference committee. This legislative language will support ISU’s important research into how to improve yields by merging the studies of all factors affecting yields.
- Importantly, the Farm Bill also protected existing policy for important biofuel programs, because we successfully shielded the Energy Title from efforts by the Chairman of the House Agriculture committee to strip it out. It is important to keep the Energy Title intact for Iowa’s biofuel industry and for our corn and soybean producers.
Is this a perfect Farm Bill? No. I would have liked to see it include some of my other initiatives as well. For example, my House-passed PICA amendment, which prevents states like California from attempting to regulate agricultural production in other states, did not survive the conference committee. I am also disappointed that the final bill did not include stringent work requirements I supported for the food-stamp program.
But you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and this is a very good Farm Bill for Iowa’s producers. It meets farmers’ current needs by providing them with the predictability that is necessary to efficiently manage their operations. The Farm Bill also places an emphasis on enhancing our ability to trade Iowa’s world-class goods in foreign markets. I view it as a victory for our producers, and I have already encouraged President Trump to quickly sign it into law.
Congressman Steve King, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, represents Iowa’s 4th District in Congress.
NOTE: This op-ed originally ran in the Sioux City Journal on 12/18/18.