An update on Farm Bill implementation

Farm Forum

In February, Congress came together to pass a long overdue five-year farm bill. Hard work remains, however, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently in the midst of implementing new and revised farm programs. Producers are already in the fields for spring planting, making the upcoming weeks and months of implementation instrumental to our agricultural communities in South Dakota and across the nation.

USDA is developing the farm bill’s new commodity programs like the Agriculture Risk Coverage revenue program and the Price Loss Coverage target price program, which will serve as the new safety net for producers. Unfortunately, given the delay in final action on the farm bill, the Administration won’t be able to get program details finalized until later this year.

While these programs will take some time to write and implement, I am pleased that the Administration has prioritized implementation of the livestock disaster programs. During a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on May 7, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack indicated that there have already been 2,260 applications through the Livestock Forage Program and 535 applications through the Livestock Indemnity Program in South Dakota since sign up began on April 15.

Many producers are still suffering the economic hardship of the 2012 drought. And, of course, many West River ranchers are still recovering from the Atlas blizzard last fall, which resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of livestock. These folks have been waiting a long time for help, and they’re finally getting it because of the farm bill livestock disaster programs. I encourage livestock producers who have experienced a loss dating back to October 2011 to contact their local Farm Service Agency office to sign up for disaster assistance.

Another area of USDA’s implementation efforts that I’m closely following is farm program eligibility requirements. Senator Grassley and I have worked for many years to target our farm program payments to family farmers, and specifically, those individuals actually engaged in the operation of a farm.

The farm bill directed Secretary Vilsack to write a rule to define whether an individual is actively engaged in a farming operation, and I’m working with my colleagues to push Secretary Vilsack to make meaningful reforms so that non-farmers aren’t able to receive payments. Strong eligibility requirements will help maintain the integrity of our farm programs and ensure that we are not subsidizing big agribusiness.

I will continue to monitor implementation of the farm bill and, as always, I encourage farmers, ranchers, and all stakeholders to keep me and my office updated as farm bill implementation moves forward.