U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) Monday released the following statement on the Senate passage of the five-year farm bill:
There is perhaps no more important piece of legislation to South Dakota's future than the farm bill. The Senate today again passed a strong bipartisan five-year farm bill. The Senate bill will reduce the deficit by $24 billion over ten years and will support the millions of jobs around the country that rely on agriculture. The Senate has once again done its work, and the House needs to act so that we can give our farmers and ranchers the certainty they deserve.
Agriculture is South Dakota's number one industry and our state's biggest economic driver, generating over $20 billion annually in economic activity.
The Senate bill takes several important steps to ensure the continued integrity of our farm programs. We eliminate direct payments and establish a new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program that will help address losses not covered by crop insurance. At the same time, we maintain a strong crop insurance program, which producers have told me time and time again is the most critical risk management tool.
We have also finally included meaningful payment limitations that Senator Grassley and I inserted with an overall $250,000 hard cap on the Title I commodity programs. The bill also takes some historic steps to close loopholes which have allowed non-farmers to receive payments.
It's time for the House of Representatives to act and give our producers certainty.
The Farm Bill includes several provisions Johnson worked on with colleagues to ensure they were part of the final version, including:
- Strong Payment Limitations – The bill again includes the Grassley/Johnson $250,000 hard cap on Title I commodity program payments. Under the legislation, direct payments are eliminated and a new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) revenue program and Adverse Market Protection (AMP) target price program are created. The bill caps these payments at $50,000 and it caps marketing loan gains at $75,000 (each doubled if a spouse is involved in the operation), for a total cap of $250,000.
- Closes Loopholes – The bill includes language inserted by Johnson and Senator Grassley requiring that farm program recipients are actively engaged in the operation.
- Maintains a strong crop insurance program
- Eliminates direct payments
- Livestock Disaster Assistance – South Dakota ranchers suffered a devastating drought last year which has persisted into this year in a lot of places. The bill reauthorizes and funds the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Livestock Forage Program (LFP), and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) and it covers losses experienced last year.
- Mandatory Rural Development Funding – The bill once again contains mandatory funding for a variety of USDA programs, including the Value-Added Producer Grant Program, the rural water and wastewater programs, the Rural Micro-entrepreneur Assistance Program, and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.
- Energy Programs – The bill continues authorization for several energy programs that promote research, development and adoption of renewable energy, including the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). It provides $880 million in mandatory funding for energy programs and authorizes $1.14 billion to be appropriated over the life of the bill.
- Rural Housing Fix – The bill contains a provision, authored by Johnson, which will ensure hundreds of rural communities across the nation including Aberdeen, Brookings, and Watertown remain eligible for rural housing development programs administered by USDA. The provision will grandfather currently eligible communities that meet the population threshold until 2020, and raise the population cap from 25,000 to 35,000. These programs help rural communities by providing homeownership options for individuals and financing assistance for developers of multi-family housing projects.