Farmers Union Minute

Read the latest from North Dakota Farmers Union!

April 3, 2021

NDFU will be hosting a virtual legislative session happy hour for members on Thursday, April 8th at 7 p.m. To RSVP, please email Megan Edwardson at medwardson@ndfu.org or reach out to your member relations specialist. 

CFAP Rolling Again
USDA began distributing additional Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments on Thursday. Farmers who raised “flat rate” and “price trigger” commodities will receive an additional $20 per acre payment automatically. Cattle producers who signed up for CFAP 2 will automatically receive “top-up” payments for cattle held in inventory April 16, 2020, to May 14, 2020. Payment rates are broken down by class and can be found by clicking “Livestock” here.

CFAP-AA Freeze Ended
USDA also ended the freeze on CFAP-Additional Assistance (CFAP-AA) and will accept new applications beginning April 5. CFAP-AA incorporates 2019 crop insurance indemnities and Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) payments in the payment calculation for specialty crops, including pulse crops, dry beans and potatoes. 

CFAP-AA also adjusts payments for producers who did not have an available 2020 Actual Production History (APH). FSA will use 100% of the 2019 Agricultural Risk Coverage-County Option (ARC-CO) benchmark yield, rather than the original 85%, in its payment calculations for those producers.

Producers who are eligible under CFAP-AA can sign up at their local FSA office beginning April 5, if they have not done so already.

Pandemic Assistance for Producers Announced
In addition to the CFAP updates, USDA also announced $6 billion in new relief to offset pandemic-related losses in the broader food and agriculture industries. This includes additional support for biofuel plants, potential expansion of CFAP, supply chain resiliency improvements and more. Another $500 million will be invested in existing USDA programs. NDFU will provide updates on these provisions as more information becomes available.

President Biden Unveils American Jobs Plan
The Biden administration revealed its $2 trillion American Jobs Plan just weeks after signing the American Rescue Plan into law. The package provides $621 billion for transportation infrastructure and would fix 20,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges. Another $689 billion for buildings and utilities, $578 billion for jobs and innovation, and $400 billion for eldercare. The investments would be made over eight years and paid for with higher income taxes on corporations. 

According to the White House, the package also includes incentives for farmers who sequester carbon. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also said a portion of the money invested in manufacturing will promote “expansion of biobased products and renewable fuel production.” The sweeping plan is expected to be debated for months before any legislation is brought to a vote. 

Hoeven Helps Reintroduce 50/14
Sen. John Hoeven joined a bipartisan coalition to reintroduce legislation that would increase transparency in cattle pricing. The 50/14 proposal would require packers to purchase at least 50% of their cattle from the cash market. The bill was first introduced last May as the coronavirus pandemic caused massive disruptions to cattle and beef prices. NDFU endorsed the legislation in its report on livestock industry reform. 

The Agricultural Marketing Service highlighted the shrinking cash market as a concern in a report on boxed beef and fed cattle price disparities last summer. The number of cash sales has declined to less than 25% of all cattle trades, limiting price transparency and discovery. The legislation could be attached to the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting reauthorization, which is due by Sep. 30. 

Bonding Bill Advances Through Senate Appropriations
The Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the bonding bill (HB 1431) on Wednesday. The package now stands at $1.11 billion after the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee adopted a $430 million increase. The amendment includes $30 million for township roads which have been a key NDFU priority. The package also provides $70 million for highways, $124.5 million for water projects, $435.5 million for the Fargo Diversion and $50 million for the Agriculture Products Development Center (APDC).

During the hearing, Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner discussed potentially moving some line items to other budgets and active legislation. Once the bill is approved by the Senate, HB 1431 will likely head to a conference committee. NDFU continues to advocate for township road funding and support for the APDC. 

Updates from Bismarck
With just weeks remaining in the legislative session, much of NDFU’s work will come down to budget discussions and conference committees. Here is an overview of what we have been up to:

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee heard HB 1475 which would provide loans and grants to support value-added agriculture projects. The bill is awaiting an Appropriations Committee vote before it heads to the Senate floor and ultimately a conference committee. You can watch NDFU President Mark Watne’s testimony in support of the bill here.
  • The House Appropriations Committee approved a $30 million increase for the Value-Added Guarantee Loan program. SB 2230 passed the committee on a 20-0 vote and now heads to the House floor. The Senate passed a $25 million increase. NDFU supports the legislation as part of its efforts to promote value-added agriculture.
  • The House passed SB 2144 by a vote of 86-6. The bill establishes electronic posting statewide, but an amendment reduces the penalty for non-hunting trespassers. It’s unclear whether the Senate will concur with the House amendments or if the bill will head to a conference committee. NDFU supported the bill in its original form.
  • The House Government and Veterans Affair Committee amended SCR 4007 to study the composition of the Board of University and School Lands. The original bill would have added the agriculture commissioner to the board. NDFU testified in support of the resolution. The bill is expected to head to a conference committee.
  • The Senate Political Subdivisions Committee voted unanimously on an amendment to HB 1397. The bill in its original form would establish a legislative management redistricting committee. The amendment adds public access language to the bill. It now heads to the Senate for a full vote.
  • The Senate voted down HB 1373 by a vote of 10-37 after it received a do not pass recommendation out of committee. The bill would have reduced early voting from 15 days to nine business days.

Ask NDFU

Have a question, comment, or concern? Focused on a policy issue we didn’t discuss here? Send Matt Perdue an email at mperdue@ndfu.org, and we will try to include it in the next edition.