NSP took part in the first House Agriculture Committee Commodity Title hearing for the next farm bill, and organization leaders visited with USDA officials at Commodity Classic.
On March 1, the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing to review the Commodity Programs Title of the Farm Bill. Nine witnesses testifying from various commodity organizations across the country, including sorghum, corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice, peanuts, sugar, sunflowers, barley, dry peas and lentils, outlined the efficacy of Title I programs from their perspectives.
Verity Ulibarri, a sorghum farmer from Melrose, New Mexico, represented National Sorghum Producers at the hearing. Ulibarri, and many of her counterparts at the hearing, testified that Title I must be strengthened given the current cost of inputs with a number calling for higher reference prices under Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage and higher loan rates.
Ulibarri specifically urged the committee to consider an index or inflator tied to fuel and fertilizer prices to maintain productivity through the turbulent times U.S. farmers and ranchers are currently facing.
While the issue is not specific to Title I, Ulibarri and others thanked the committee for their work on crop insurance and denoted the important role crop insurance plays, in addition to Title I programs, to maintain a strong safety net for farmers across the country.
Ulibarri also reminded committee members that the now-routine activity of administering ARC and PLC, combined with existing programs and their growing complexity, sheds new light on the importance of staffing at local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices. She encouraged committee members to provide additional resources for FSA to deliver these programs.
“A thorough title-by-title review of the 2018 Farm Bill is the only way to make sure the 2023 reauthorization accurately reflects the needs of our farmers, ranchers, and producers,” Ranking Republican Member Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) said, “Collaboration at the full Committee level is necessary to make sure the voices of rural America are heard.
At the National Sorghum Producers board meeting during Commodity Classic, NSP board members and staff met with USDA leadership and discussed regulatory issues facing the sorghum industry. USDA leadership, including Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Under Secretary Robert Bonnie, Risk Management Agency (RMA) Administrator Marcia Bunger and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Terry Cosby all presented key initiatives from their respective agencies and took a variety of questions from board, staff and guests. NSP continues to follow up with USDA leadership on questions and initiatives that arose from these conversations.
As USDA has increased focus on sustainability and conservation, much of the discussion by all three USDA officials centered on these topics. FPAC Under Secretary Bonnie focused on his expectation for the $500 million USDA program to support drought recovery and encourage the adoption of water-smart management practices, as well as answering questions about the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities in which USDA will be distributing $1 billion through grants to finance pilot projects that create market opportunities for U.S. agricultural and forestry products that use climate-smart practices and include innovative, cost-effective ways to measure and verify greenhouse gas benefits.
NRCS Chief Crosby discussed the differences in the new climate programs offered by USDA and the existing programs offered through NRCS. He went on to explain how the programs would interact, shared NRCS’s plan to administer the funding for the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities and answered questions from board leadership about various conservation program restrictions and caveats that often deter farmers from signing up.
RMA Administrator Bunger walked through the insurance products available to sorghum producers and gave an update on two new insurance options in development at the Kansas City RMA office: an option that enables irrigated farmers to insure sorghum at higher liabilities and more cost-effective rates and an option that allows specialty farmers to insure sorghum at contract prices. Bunger said she expected these new options to be available for producers in the 2023 crop year.
In addition to the USDA officials who presented at the NSP board meeting, NSP CEO Tim Lust and NSP Chairman Kody Carson met with USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Vilsack hosted a roundtable discussion at Commodity Classic with CEOs and leadership from the hosting organizations: National Sorghum Producers, National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and American Association of Equipment Manufacturers.
USDA leadership was not the only agricultural representation from Washington, D.C., to attend Commodity Classic. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) also traveled to New Orleans to visit with farmers and grower leaders. Ranking Member Thompson held a meeting with NSP board members and staff to discuss legislative issues and the 2023 Farm Bill process. He also took time to visit NSP leadership at the booth on the Commodity Classic trade show floor.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2022 Issue of Sorghum Grower magazine.