The Trump administration enabled multimillion-dollar payments to some large operators in this year’s round of trade war payments by obliterating the usual limits on farm subsidies, said the president of the National Farmers Union on Thursday.
Corporate consolidation and low commodity prices are posing an existential threat to small, family farms, farmers warned at an event hosted by the Wisconsin Farmers Union in Madison last week. Several producers, from small organic growers to commodity milk farmers, shared stories about how tough farming has become.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue may jeopardize the objectivity of two USDA agencies by taking control of the Economic Research Service and moving it and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) out of Washington, said the National Farmers Union on Tuesday. The second-largest U.S. farm group announced its opposition to the reorganization in a letter to Perdue, saying the USDA has failed to justify the reorganization announced a month ago.
The National Farmers Union said it opposes the Republican-written farm bill awaiting a vote in the House. The American Farm Bureau Federation, for its part, said the partisan split over the bill was not an insurmountable barrier to passing a new farm and public nutrition law this year.
The farm sector is “rightfully concerned” that President Trump’s plan for steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum could trigger retaliatory tariffs on U.S. ag exports, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Exports account for 20 percent of U.S. farm income.
A vast body of state laws regulates farming, from monitoring agricultural pollution and farm runoff, to pesticide applications, labor rules, and animal welfare. But many of those regulations could be subject to challenge if recently proposed legislation in Congress becomes law. The skirmish over the new legislation is the latest in a long series of fights about who is best suited to regulate food production, processing, and labeling—the federal government, or the states. This time, the fight could make it all the way to the farm bill.
With farm income in a slump, the National Farmers Union asked Congress for more money for the 2018 farm bill in order to strengthen the farm safety net to offset the slump in commodity prices that began four years ago. Agricultural leaders in Congress aim for early passage of the farm bill, expected to cost around $90 billion a year, but they are off to a slower start than originally suggested.
Commodity prices are still in a trough but U.S. farm income is on the rise for the first time since 2013 because producers are sending more crops and livestock to market than initially expected, said the USDA. It forecast net cash farm income, a measure of liquidity, of $100.4 billion this year, far stronger than the February forecast of $93.5 billion, but only three-fourths of the record set in 2013.
As lawmakers gather ideas for the 2018 farm bill, the two largest U.S. farm groups say one thing is clear: it's not the time to reduce funding for the bill and its vast array of USDA activities, from crop supports to food stamps. Commodity prices have been in a trough since 2013, so "many of America's farmers and ranchers are struggling," says the American Farm Bureau Federation, while the National Farmers Union said the drop in farm income threatens the survival of beginning farmers.