Farm bill insiders speak at NFU convention

Farm Forum

SANTA FE, N.M. – On March 9 attendees of National Farmers Union‘s (NFU) annual convention heard from a panel of congressional, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and media experts on the 2014 Farm Bill.

Bart Fischer, chief economist, House Committee on Agriculture; Joe Shultz, chief economist, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; and Alexis Taylor, chief of staff, USDA Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, described the farm bill conference process from their respective viewpoints. Sara Wyant, president, Agri-Pulse Communications, moderated the panel.

The panelists discussed the compromises farm bill conference committee members made when negotiating the differences between the House of Representatives and Senate versions of the bill, particularly on commodity programs, Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), crop insurance, payment limitations, changes to base acres allocations, and the new dairy program.

Panelists focused on the new commodity programs, the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs, as well as enhanced risk management tools, including the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) and improved options for non-insured crops and beginning farmers. Emphasis was also placed on the importance coalition-building efforts played in farm bill passage.

Taylor discussed the long-term implementation timeline, with emphasis on timely enactment of the livestock disaster programs, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s top priority. USDA also plans to hold listening sessions in Washington, D.C., and across the country to ensure farmers and ranchers the opportunity to provide input on program implementation.

When posed with a question on COOL, the panelists each said they would be watching the World Trade Organization’s decision closely.

“This panel was a great opportunity for our members to hear firsthand from those responsible for all aspects of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ farm bill process: both writing and implementing the legislation,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The information the panelists presented will help our members prepare for the difficult and complex commodity program and risk management decisions they will be making in the coming year.”

For more information on the NFU convention, visit, or follow @nfudc and #NFU2014 on Twitter.