Farm Bill Deal Includes Key Commodity Program Changes

The farm bill includes key changes for row crops. ( Farm Journal - Lindsey Benne )

Key changes:

  • Adjusted loan rates
  • Annual choice between ARC and PLC
  • Opportunity to update yield data
  • Grassland to be removed from base acres

The four key ag committee leaders announced agreement in principle on a final farm bill Thursday. That deal includes some key changes to the Commodity Title of the bill, including adjustments sought by farm groups, according to Pro Farmer Washington Analyst Jim Wiesemeyer.

The first key change according to Wiesemeyer comes in a provision to increase loan rates while allowing for an annual election between the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs. Under the previous farm bill, growers made a single selection between the two programs for the life of the farm bill.

Wiesemeyer told AgriTalk Radio Show host Chip Flory that growers will have the opportunity to adjust historical yield data to minimize the impact of drought years and other anomalies.

“On ARC, I think corn and soybean producers got a win here,” Wiesemeyer said. “They're going to use trend adjusted yields similar to crop insurance. There's going to be a new t-yield plug under the ARC, and then there's going to be a new, what they've told me, cascade for determining yields beginning with RMA yields, that's Risk Management Agency yields. The bottom line is I think the majority of farmers are going to like it because it's going to adjust some areas that they thought were too rigid in the 2014 farm bill.”

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres will be increased from 24 million to 27 million under the new farm bill, according to Wiesemeyer. He said a portion of that 3-million-acre increase will be held aside for a grassland reserve program.

That grassland reserve is key because the bill will also remove continuous grassland from a farmer’s base acres, according to Wiesemeyer.

“If you haven't planted those base acres for a designated number of years, you're going to lose those base acres, but they're going to be incentivized some way,” he said. “It looks like some of that former grassland can go into a Conservation Reserve earmarked for grassland, but you will not be able to increase your base acres from what you had in the 2014 farm bill despite conjecture to the contrary.”

Wiesemeyer expects the farm bill conference report to be released early next week after the proposal is scored by the Congressional Budget Office. 

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) told reporters on Wednesday that he expects the farm bill to be taken up as a stand-alone bill in the Senate. Wiesemeyer said that may not be the case in the House, where the farm bill could be attached to an omnibus spending bill.

“It depends on, when they whip the bill, how many Republicans say they're going to vote for it,” he said. “If they don't have the majority of Republicans vote for it then there could be a last-minute effort to just attach it to that must-pass spending bill.”

In a recorded statement to reporters on Thursday, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Tex.) said he has not talked to House leadership yet about timing of a final vote or whether the farm bill will be packaged with another measure.

Hear Jim Wiesemeyer’s full analysis of the farm bill deal on AgriTalk in the clip below: