Start Of Farm Bill Fight
On April 18, 2018, the House Agriculture Committee passed its 2018 Farm Bill out of committee on a straight party-line vote.
All republicans voted for the bill, and all democrats voted against it. The committee has already adopted 17 amendments. The democrats are expected to submit amendments when the bill comes up on the House floor in May. Most of the opposition was expressed concerning the new work or education requirement for 6 million people among the 45 million recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.
Several farm groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, praised the committee for their work. AFBF President Zippy Duvall said this is great news for farmers and ranchers everywhere. He said, “The passage takes us one step closer to bringing certainty to families who face the toughest farm economy in more than a decade.”
Endorsing the Farm Bill are the National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation¸ National Association of Wheat Growers and American Soybean Association. Others expressed disappointment that the parties were not working united since the Farm Bill is usually a bipartisan piece of legislation.
The 2018 Farm Bill now goes to the House floor for action. The bill is expected to be introduced on the floor in late May, and the Senate Ag Committee will formulate their version in June.
Ag Chairman Comments
Chairman Mike Conaway of Texas said, “Rural America is hurting. Over the last five years, net farm income has been cut in half. Natural disasters and global markets distorted by predatory trade practices of foreign countries, including high and rising foreign subsidies, tariffs and non-tariff barriers, have resulted in huge production losses and chronically depressed prices that are today jeopardizing the future of America’s farm and ranch families.”
He added, “The Farm Bill keeps faith with our nation’s farmers and ranchers through the current agriculture recession by providing certainty and helping producers manage the enormous risks that are inherent in agriculture. The Farm Bill also remains faithful to the American taxpayer and consumer. Under the Farm Bill, consumers will continue to enjoy the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world, and taxpayers will reap the more than $112 billion in budget savings projected under the current law.”
The peanut program under the commodity title remains largely the same. The reference price ($535 per ton), the marketing assistance loan amount ($355 per ton), storage and handling charges and separate payment limitations remain the same as in the current bill.
A new term in this Farm Bill is “Effective Reference Price,” which under certain circumstances will allow the reference price of any covered commodity, including peanuts, to rise up to a maximum of 115 percent of the reference price, itself. The rise would depend on an increase in the Olympic average for the five most recent crop years and would be limited to 85 percent of the average.
The bill also adds first cousins, nieces and nephews to the definition of “family farm.”
Unrivaled Income Volatility
According to a survey of more than 20,000 American farmers, 58 percent have experienced income fluctuations of at least 50 percent over the course of two consecutive years. Fewer than 10 percent for all U.S. households experienced the same level of variation.
USDA’s Economic Research Service examined farmers’ income volatility from 1997 to 2013 using the Agricultural Resource Management Survey, the most comprehensive survey of U.S. farm households.
The report suggests that the 1.4 million people who consider farming their primary occupation may struggle to obtain credit, expand and pay debt due to such extreme shifts in income.
“Farming is risky business and this new study helps define just how risky,” says Tom Zacharias, an economist and president of National Crop Insurance Services. “But the study also shows the public-private partnership that is federal crop insurance is helping farm families deal with that risk.”
Farms growing insured crops were reported to have their annual income volatility decline faster than other farms.
“These results suggest that efforts to increase risk management as a center piece of farm programs have had a positive effect in lowering farm income variability,” Zacharias says. “The study is part of a growing body of scientific evidence that shows crop insurance is a fiscally responsible tool for farmers and the American taxpayer.”
Crop insurance is delivered by the private sector, which helps maximize efficiency. Farmers collectively pay $3.5 to $4 billion a year for protection, so taxpayers aren’t left holding the entire bag after disaster strikes. It also means faster payments after verified losses instead of waiting for Congress to approve disaster relief legislation.
“The well-documented track record of crop insurance, along with this new study and the many that have come before it, makes a strong case for continuing to provide a safety net for farmers that maintains a strong crop insurance component,” concluded Zacharias.
Commission Referendum Passes
The Georgia Peanut Commission’s 2018 referendum was held March 16 through April 16 and received reaffirmation with a vote of 94.02 percent, the highest the commission has received in its nearly 57-year existence. Armond Morris, peanut farmer from Tifton, Georgia, and GPC chairman, is proud to know his fellow peanut farmers have confidence in the commission and its activities.
“I am thankful our board and staff have been able to work in the areas of research, promotion and education of peanuts, as well as support efforts in Washington to maintain legislation that is helpful for peanut farmers; which in turn, continues to allow us to provide a healthy, nutritious product for consumers,” Morris said. “Agriculture is Georgia’s No. 1 industry and we are proud our farmers contribute more than $2.2 billion to the state’s economy with the hard work they produce on their farm.”
As required by Georgia state law, the state’s peanut farmers vote on the commission every three years. The ballots were mailed the week of March 16 and the Certified Public Accounting firm of Allen, Pritchett and Bassett counted the ballots returned on April 25.
“I am humbled by the support of peanut farmers in Georgia,” Don Koehler, GPC’s executive director said. “We will never forget the trust our farmers place in us and do not ever take it for granted.”
Georgia peanut farmers invest $2 per ton annually to the commission to be used in the program areas of research, promotion and education. For additional information on the Georgia Peanut Commission and its activities, visit www.gapeanuts.com.
Possible Marketing Order Change
Comments were accepted on changing the assessment rate computation under the Peanut Promotion, Research and Information Order, administered by the National Peanut Board with oversight by USDA through April 30.
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service staff compiled the comments for management to use in considering whether to change the Peanut Promotion, Marketing and Information Order or not.
Officials said that all comments were in support of the change with none opposed. Agricultural Marketing Service sources say that reaching a decision on this change is a priority so that FSA and handlers will have time to make programming changes ahead of harvest.
The proposed rule would change the basis for assessment under the program from value to volume (per ton). Two rates of assessment would be established instead of using a formula currently specified in the regulations. The assessment would be flat rates of $3.55 per ton for Segregation 1 peanuts and $1.25 per ton for Segregation 2 and 3 peanuts.
This action was unanimously recommended by the National Peanut Board and would help facilitate program operations by providing a more predictable revenue stream in which to carry out its mission.
Premium Peanut Oil Mill Opens
Premium Peanut of Douglas, Georgia, opened a $14 million peanut oil mill recently as key agriculture leaders praised the company and the continued growth of agriculture in the state. The peanut oil mill plant has the capacity of 100 tons of peanuts per day, which will generate approximately 60 tons of peanut meal and 40 tons of peanut oil. More than 350 guests from the community, state and industry attended the opening.
Keynote speakers commented on the positive attributes of doing business in Georgia, and the value of agriculture for the state and nation included. Speaking at the event were Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson and Georgia Congressman Rick Allen.
Karl Zimmer, President and CEO, said, “It was an exciting day for our company as we celebrate the start-up of Premium Peanut Oil and continue our mission of creating value for our 350 and more grower/owners.
“We have received a great reception in the market, both domestically and internationally, and are proud to commence these expansions so quickly after the start of shelling operations. Through these growth initiatives, we plan to expand our abilities to support customers with a stable, reliable, quality supply of peanuts and peanut oil,” Zimmer said.
New Allergy Campaign
The National Peanut Board is launching a new campaign that builds awareness to help parents overcome fears and concerns of early introduction of peanut foods to prevent allergies. Research indicates that parents are still reluctant to introduce baby-safe peanut foods around six months of age.
In the first of a three-part video series, actor Justin Baldoni talked about introducing peanut foods to son Maxwell. Media coverage came from top millennial lifestyle outlets like PEOPLE, Cooking Light and Upworthy. On social media, consumer reaction is upbeat—praising NPB and Justin for raising awareness about this important initiative.
Other families will be showcased as they introduce peanut foods, recipes and other family tips. The campaign is a partnership with the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology and the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection. While many parents and pediatricians embraced the idea of introducing peanuts early, around 4 to 6 months of age, the goal now is to help parents overcome any fear in following the guidelines.
The campaign website is PreventPeanutAllergies.org.