Farmers Union Minute

Read the latest from North Dakota Farmers Union!

May 20, 2024

HOUSE MARK UP NEXT WEEK
The 2024 Farm Bill is scheduled for mark up in the House on May 23. Chairman G.T. Thompson (R-Penn.) released the legislative text last Friday, and it includes significant improvements in the farm safety net. Thompson will likely need bipartisan support to pass the bill, which includes several proposals sponsored by rural Democrats. However, Ranking Member David Scott (D-Ga.) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) are strongly opposed to Thompson’s bill.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Stabenow are urging vulnerable House Democrats to block the bill in favor of Stabenow’s framework. The main points of contention are the fate of “climate-smart” guardrails on Inflation Reduction Act conservation funds and restrictions on the executive branch’s ability to update the Thrifty Food Plan. 

COMPETITION PROVISIONS IN SENATE BILL
Competition in the livestock industry is receiving increased scrutiny in Farm Bill discussions. Stabenow’s proposal includes several competition measures that NDFU supports. Stabenow’s proposal would establish an Office of Special Investigator for Competition to enhance coordination and enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act. It also seeks to permanently establish the Cattle Contract Library and mandates that the Economic Research Service (ERS) issue a report on industry consolidation within one year of the latest agricultural census.

Both proposals contain provisions allowing livestock auction barns and livestock marketing agencies to participate in the meat processing industry. Stabenow’s proposal would allow livestock marketers to own a meatpacker with revenues of less than $50 million. Thompson’s proposal would limit marketers to owning meatpacking facilities with daily slaughter capacity of under 2,000 head of cattle or 10,000 hogs. NDFU’s member-driven Policy & Action opposes permitting auction barns to invest in meat processors.

INSURANCE, DISASTER PROVISIONS MIXED BAG
Both the Senate and House Farm Bill drafts would make modest but meaningful improvements to crop insurance and livestock disaster programs. Both proposals would increase Supplemental Coverage Option premium support to 80% but do not make changes to premium support for underlying policies. NDFU has endorsed Sen. John Hoeven’s FARMER Act, which would improve the affordability of higher levels of coverage. A House companion bill was introduced last week. 

The two bills also improve livestock disaster programs, including updating livestock values on a quarterly basis for the Livestock Indemnity Program. The bills also codify changes to the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP). NDFU continues to push for improvements that would ensure Livestock Forage Program payments better reflect actual feed costs.

IN THE NUMBERS
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As of May 12, crop planting progress for spring wheat and corn is ahead of the five-year average. Spring wheat is 47% planted, and corn is 22% planted. Sugarbeets, notably, are far along in planting this year at 92%, well ahead of the 51% five-year average.

FARM BILLS ADDRESS FOREIGN OWNERSHIP
Both Farm Bill frameworks would address growing concerns over foreign ownership of agricultural land. Both proposals would strengthen reporting and enforcement under the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA). The bills impose stricter penalties for false reporting, enhance outreach about AFIDA requirements and establish an online system for filing AFIDA reports. 

Both bills also require reports on foreign ownership of agricultural land, though they differ in scope. The House proposal names Russia, China, Iran, North Korea as state sponsors of terrorism, requiring the USDA to report on land owned by citizens and entities from these nations. The Senate version calls for a report every five years on current trends and impacts of foreign land ownership in agriculture.

FEDS RESPOND TO DISEASE OUTBREAK
Federal officials are scrambling to stop an outbreak of avian flu in dairy cattle. First discovered in March, the outbreak has affected 42 herds in nine states. The disease poses a low public health risk, as pasteurization effectively prevents the disease from spreading to humans. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has stressed that the federal government is seeking to incentivize affected states and farmers to increase monitoring of cattle herds.

USDA and the Department of Health have allocated a combined $199 million to incentivize states and farmers. Additionally, USDA will provide $10,000 per farm with a positive test result to cover veterinary expenses. USDA has also issued an order requiring a negative test before lactating cattle can cross state lines.

 

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.