North Dakota Farmers Union’s highest priority at this moment is the next farm bill, which expires Sept. 30. Work on the farm bill likely will not be completed by then, so an extension of the existing bill will be needed before a new farm bill can be crafted by the end of the year or early next year. 

Our objective for farm policy is to ensure family farmers and ranchers can secure net farm income equivalent to families in other sectors of our national economy. The policy should provide price protection, risk management, competition in the marketplace, stock control mechanisms to avoid stocks being pushed into the market when prices are at their lowest, and target family farmers and ranchers.

The farm bill is an omnibus, multiyear law that governs agricultural and food programs. It provides an opportunity for policymakers to address agricultural and food issues comprehensively and periodically. In addition to developing and enacting farm legislation, Congress is involved in overseeing its implementation and the United States Department of Agriculture carries out the legislatively directed programs. The farm bill is usually renewed every five years. Typically, it is nonpartisan with support from both sides of the aisle, both rural and urban legislators, and the executive branch.  

The cost or farm bill scoring baseline that is used to determine dollars available for the next 10 years is $1.51 trillion. Food and nutrition (SNAP) programs comprise 81.1% of this expenditure. The farm bill also includes dollars for energy, research, horticulture, trade, inflation reduction, conservation, commodity programs, crop insurance and several miscellaneous programs for rural America. Commodity programs and crop insurance comprise about 11.2% (only .23% of total federal spending) of farm bill funding. This is an excellent investment for taxpayers to maintain the inexpensive and abundant food supply system we all enjoy in this country.

The farm bill can create coalitions of support among many interests that individually might have greater difficulty achieving majority support in the legislative process. In recent years, more stakeholders have become involved in the debate, including national farm groups, commodity associations, state organizations, nutrition and public health officials, and advocacy groups representing conservation, recreation, rural development, faith-based interests, local food systems, and organic production. These factors can contribute to increased interest in the allocation of funds provided in a farm bill.

NDFU is prioritizing these items: 

• Maintaining and enhancing crop insurance and livestock coverage programs.  

• Raising PLC reference prices and ARC payment calculation prices. We would like to see a dual sign-in option for ARC and PLC with the farmer receiving the higher of the two programs that generates the most income for their farm.  

• Better controls on payment limits and more targeting of payments to real family farms and ranches.

• Support for a permanent disaster program to eliminate the need for ad hoc disaster programs that can be unfair and expensive.  

• Support for conservation programs and carbon sequestration programs that reward farmers for environmental practices. 

• Enactment of a competition title focused on antitrust laws and monopolistic practices that are impacting farm and ranch income, due to fewer companies owning a large percentage of the market in meatpacking, seed, chemical, fertilizer, transportation and other sectors.

NDFU is participating in a fly-in to Washington, D.C., this September to voice our ideas and concerns. I ask all of you to be prepared to participate in the farm bill dialogue. With your help, we hope to continue to have a strong farm bill that supports farmers and consumers.

— NDFU President Mark Watne