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.
The federally subsidized crop-insurance program grew dramatically over the past two decades. It covers 44 percent more acres and, with creation of revenue insurance, the average level of coverage climbed to 75 percent in 2014, a 17-point increase from 1996, according to economists Carl Zulauf of Ohio State and Dan Orden of Virginia Tech.
Told to choose between traditional subsidies and a new-era revenue subsidy, corn and soybean farmers overwhelming opted for the revenue plan, the government announced. Growers were expected to choose the Agriculture Risk Coverage plan, analysts said, because it will provide larger payments than traditional subsidies triggered by low prices over the life of the 2014 farm law.
U.S. grain, cotton and soybean farmers will collect an average of $11.2 billion a year in crop subsidies and crop insurance benefits under the 2014 farm law, down by nearly 1 percent from the average of the preceding decade, says a University of Missouri think tank.
Growers have one additional week, until April 7, to select their crop-subsidy program for the life of the 2014 farm law. They must choose between the insurance-like Agricultural Risk Coverage, which shields growers from declines in crop revenue, and the traditional Price Loss Coverage, which guarantees a minimum price. The USDA announced the one-week extension, saying 10 percent of likely farm-program participants had not made a decision as of last week.
One of the top lobbyists at the American Farm Bureau Federation says budget-cutting pressure means that, "This is probably the most challenging year for crop insurance in a long time," AgWeb reports in a story from the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau meeting.
Neither the futures market nor the government provide spot-on forecasts of crop prices in the long term, write economists Scott Irwin and Darrel Good at farmdoc daily ahead of the March 31 deadline for grain and soybean farmers to choose a crop subsidy program.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says if the United States loses its WTO appeal over country-of-origin labels (COOL) on meat sold in grocery stores, the only choice left will be repeal of the law or extensive changes in it. "That's the deal," Vilsack said during a news conference in San Diego. Lawmakers instructed USDA last month to report by May 1 on how to bring the COOL into compliance with world trade rulings.
Congress should phase out premium subsidies on crop insurance policies sold to the wealthiest U.S. farmers and offer policies that reward growers who hedge their risks by planting a variety of crops instead of specializing in one or two crops, said...
Two agricultural economists say corn subsidies could cost $6 to $8 billion for this year's record-large corn crop, says Reuters. The estimates are based on the projected U.S. average price of $3.50 a bushel for the crop, the price guarantees of the farm bill and...