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Farmers disappointed with House vote against new farm bill


May 21, 2018

Contact: Sean Ellis, (208) 220-5428

Farmers disappointed with House vote against new farm bill


By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – Disappointment and a small bit of outrage are being expressed by many farmers across the nation and in Idaho after the U.S. House of Representatives failed to pass a new farm bill May 19.

The final vote was 198-213 against the bill, which would reauthorize the 2014 farm bill, which expires at the end of September unless it’s extended.

During this time of depressed farm commodity prices and uncertainty at possible trade wars, passing a new farm bill with a basic safety net for farmers and ranchers is a necessity for U.S. and Idaho agriculture.

The disappointment in farm country over the failed vote is due to the fact that the farm bill plays an important role in providing producers some financial certainty.

Keep in mind that about 80 percent of the farm bill is funding for the food stamp program, officially called the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.

But besides provides funding for the federal food stamp program, the broad legislation also provides funding for agricultural loans, international marketing programs, agricultural research and crop insurance, risk management and conservation programs.

Of particular importance to Idaho farmers is the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs authorized by the 2014 farm bill, said Stacey Katseanes Satterlee, executive director of Idaho Grain Producers Association, which represents the state’s wheat and barley growers.

The ARC program provides revenue loss coverage and PLC payments kick in when the price of a covered commodity is less than the respective reference price for that commodity.

“Idaho grain growers would say the farm bill is critical,” Katseanes Satterlee said. “The only safety net farmers have at this point is the crop insurance provided through PLC and ARC.”

“There is so much instability in farm country, whether it’s the markets, weather or crop insects and diseases,” she said. “the only thing we can control is the farm bill and it’s important to get one passed so farmers have that security.”

The outrage stems from the fact that the proposed bill was used as a political pawn to try to force a vote on an immigration reform bill.

While Democrats voted against the bill because it includes some new work requirements for food stamp recipients, 30 Republicans also voted against it as a way to try to force a vote on the immigration bill.

Common-sense immigration reform is one of U.S. agriculture’s top priorities and IFBF applauds those who are trying to accomplish that.

But immigration reform and the farm bill are separate issues and they should be dealt with separately. There is a definite need for immigration reform but neither issue should be used as a political hostage for the other.

“We urge members of congress to vote on the farm bill on its own merits and quit trying to hold it hostage to accomplish other goals,” said Idaho Farm Bureau Federation President Bryan Searle, a farmer from Shelley.

“Farmers and ranchers shouldn’t be used as pawns to achieve political gains,” he said.

Though Idaho farmers and ranchers receive support through farm bill programs at a rate far below the U.S. average, it’s an important safety net that provides producers a basic amount of financial certainty.

So how does the farm bill impact the average Idahoan who is not engaged in agriculture?

Agriculture is the state’s top economic sector, according to a University of Idaho study that found agriculture directly and indirectly accounts for 16 percent of the state’s total Gross Domestic Product, 128,000 jobs and $28 billion in sales annually.

Idaho’s farming sector underpins the state’s overall economy.

We urge every Idahoan to contact their congressman and urge them to vote in favor of the new farm bill.