The American Soybean Association (ASA) laid out its initial approach to the upcoming farm bill negotiations in a hearing today before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in Manhattan, Kan.
Testifying on behalf of ASA, Lucas Heinen, who farms in Everest, Kan., and serves as the president of the Kansas Soybean Association, pointed to the state of the farm economy as the most compelling signal of the need for a robust risk management framework in the farm bill. Citing falling prices for soybeans and the reduced cost of the 2014 Farm Bill as compared to original estimates, Heinen noted that ASA will push to fund farm bill programs to the level needed to adequately address each program’s needs, even if that means increasing funding.
“I understand that the conventional view in Washington is that the cost of farm programs and other parts of the farm bill will need to be reduced again, just as they were in the 2014 farm bill. This is not acceptable to producers,” said Heinen.
Heinen continued by detailing four key areas in which soybean growers will seek to make headway in the farm bill negotiations, including a strengthening of crop insurance and a continuation of the Agriculture Revenue Coverage option decoupled from planted acreage and with a shift to the use of yield data from USDA’s Risk Management Agency, as well as support for current conservation programs, including EQIP and the Conservation Stewardship Program, agricultural research, and Energy Title programs focused on biodiesel and biobased products.
Heinen also underscored ASA’s commitment to increased funding for the development of export markets in the bill. “We strongly support doubling mandatory funding for the Foreign Market Development program and the Market Access Program to spur promotion of U.S. agricultural exports,” he said. “Funding for these programs has been frozen for over ten years while our foreign competitors are massively outspending us on market promotion.”
Closing his testimony, Heinen repeated ASA’s call to maintain the traditional relationship between producer- and consumer-focused programs in the next bill. “There is a relationship between the need to provide assistance to those who produce food and those who consume it, when either needs that assistance,” he said. “This bond explains how Congress has been able to come together and enact farm bills for over 40 years.”