Roughly 16 months ago, at their first hearing for the 2018 farm bill, Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts and Sen. Debbie Stabenow agreed to write a bipartisan bill that would be enacted on time, a seemingly simple goal that has eluded Congress repeatedly. With a committee vote set for Wednesday on their 1,006-page bill, the two committee leaders say they are on the verge of a major bipartisan victory.
After suffering a 31-percent drop in net cash income in three years, the U.S. farm sector will see stable to modestly rising income in coming years, while farmland values will fall 11 percent before leveling off at the end of this decade, says the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute. The University of Missouri think tank says farm debt will rise, as will indicators of financial stress, such as the debt-to-asset ratio.
It's been a decade since low commodity prices made loan-deficiency payments a routine, if arcane, part of U.S. agriculture. But prices are low enough that wheat growers are collecting LDPs and the payments "might even be on the cusp of returning for corn in some parts of the country," says DTN. When farmers request an LDP, the USDA pays them the difference between the support price for a crop and the market price, when prices are below the so-called loan rate.
With a worldwide glut pulling down cotton prices to their lowest level in eight years, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $300 million in one-time assistance to growers, based on ginning costs. The cost-share program is far smaller than the $1-billion-a-year cottonseed subsidy that the industry wanted and that Vilsack said was beyond his power to create.
Cotton growers face the third year of low commodity prices, high production costs and financial hardship, says an economic outlook presented at the industry's annual meeting.
The government will make its first crop-subsidy payments under the 2014 farm law in October, with an estimated transfer of $6.5 billion to follow, said USDA deputy undersecretary Alexis Taylor at a House Agriculture Committee hearing.
There is almost no risk that the United States will exceed WTO limits on agricultural subsidies with the 2014 farm law, but the picture could be far different if Doha Round proposals are adopted, according to three senior economists.
The size of budget sequestration cuts in crop subsidies "is still up in the air," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told DTN. The cuts will fall in the range of 6.8 percent to 7.3 percent unless Congress changes the 2011 sequestration law.
The government plans to pro-rate subsidy payments for 2014, 2015 and 2016 grain and soybean crops, says economist Art Barnaby of Kansas State U at the Ag Manager website.
This spring the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza epidemic tore through poultry farms across 15 U.S. states, leading to the death of 48 million birds. The bulk of those were egg-laying hens, though turkey production was affected, too.