15. June 2023 · Comments Off on Ag and Rural Caucus -Farm Bill – June 2023 · Categories: Committee News, Recent Events

ARC June Events

6:30 pm Thursday 15 June

Andy Juris
President, Washington Association of Wheat Growers


Farming is a private business…why a Farm Bill?

What’s the public’s concern in farm policy? Why should we care about what happens in this corner of the market?

Food, not surprisingly, is a major part of the  “social” dimension of farming. Food sufficiency, food quality, food reliability – food on the table. This is why we all have an interest in farming.

Keeping people – farmers – on the farm is also part of our national interest. Farming is rural. The public at large has an interest is keeping people on the farm and in small communities. This is part nostalgia, part politics, and part population spreading. And a cynic might add that a nation of many small farmers pays off for a food industry concentrated in a few corporations buying their produce.

Farmers take pride in feeding people…justifiable pride. And we are happy enough to pose as rural, independent and self-reliant. Farmers are also business people. We are business people with an uncommon attachment to our land. It is our principal asset. Sure, we have combines, tractors and farm shops, but it is our land which provides the revenue stream that pays the bills. We have a vested interest in the productive quality of our land for ourselves and our future generations.

It is our vested interest in the quality of our soil and its productive capacity that makes farmers bristle when “outsiders” tell us how to farm our private ground. Their well-meaning message that agriculture has an out-sized ecological effect often comes with the accusation that farming is at the root of most of our ecological problems…fertilizer run-off polluting our streams, CO2 emissions from tillage and our diesel-burning tractors, aquifer depletion to irrigate crops, poisoning the soil with pesticides, killing off pollinators and wildlife, and so on.

The Farm Bill tries to bridge this cultural gap by using dollars. Title 2, Conservation, is a package of measures that rents ecological services from farmers. This is smart. The programs are voluntary, they compensate farmers for ground taken out of cultivation or to adopt practices that compromise short term production.

The Conservation Title is part of a broader movement to develop carbon markets to pay directly for agriculture’s carbon sequestration from practices that join society’s issues with changing climate and farmers re-investment in their soil. This carbon market is happening mostly outside the Farm Bill but it is there that it is rooted.

Join us Thursday to talk about what you think a farm bill should do.

13 June 2023

Farm Bill Titles

“We call this thing the Farm Bill and, honestly, it’s so much more than what that might imply,” Stabenow added. (Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.)

Andy Juris is going to talk to us about the Farm Bill and how it plays out for Washington wheat growers. Farmers do not talk about Farm Bill titles; we talk about programs. It can help, though, to lay out the Bill by title and baseline dollars.

TitleTitle HeadingExample programsBaseline Expenditure
Title 4NutritionSNAP: food stamps1,205.0
Title 11Crop InsuranceCrop Insurance Program97.0
Title ICommoditiescommodity support; disaster assistance57.0
Title 2Conservation CREP; PL 566 water projects57.0
Title 3TradeMarket Access Program4.8
Title 10Horticulturespecialty crops; organic2.1
Title 7ResearchARS; research and extension1.3
Title 12Misc 0.8
Title 9Energycommunity renewable energy0.5
Title 8ForestryUSDA Forest Service0.1
Title 5CreditCapital and Operating-0.1
Title 6Rural DevelopmentHousing, community facilties-0.1

Nutrition is clearly the largest title, making up 85% of the total. While it is probably capped by the recent debt ceiling bill, it has increased from 67% in 2008 to76% in 2018.

This is OK. This is what gets urban Democrats on board to vote for a farm bill. Progressive Democrats also get excited about the Conservation Title. This is also OK. These are the dollars that pay for on-farm conservation projects and, especially for central Washington, is making the Odessa Groundwater Replacement project possible.

The other two titles that are important locally are Trade – 85% of Washington wheat is exported – and Research. USDA-ARS is housed at WSU where, for wheat growers, there appears to be seamless coordination between the University and ARS.

Enough detail for today. As Senator Stabenow says, “it’s so much more…”

12 June 2023

The Farm Bill: What is actually?

You have all heard about “The Farm Bill”.  Some of you know that it is hot right now. It is renewed every five years and this is the year.

You may also vaguely know that “The Farm Bill” is more about food stamps than crop insurance. For this you can thank Tom Foley, D-Wash CD5, and Bob Dole, R-Kansas, a generation ago. Foley and Dole lead the ag committees in the house and senate, and realized that farmers needed strong urban support for a farm bill to pass. They bought this support by rolling food stamps and food policy into the farm bill. You sometimes will hear farmers complaining that the farm bill seems to be more for the city folk than farmers and that we should have a clean farm bill. The linkage, though, of ag interests and urban food policy is what keeps farmers in business.

Times change and agriculture is again in the cross-hairs of conflicting interests. A question for us is whether the farm bill can be a useful instrument for financial security for farmers and also deal with a changing climate and suspicion of farm practices on the ground. Do we still have family farms? Are our soils being depleted by commercial ag practices? Can farmers save the world? Are farmers CO2 and CH4 villains? Or do we enjoy a residual of nostalgia and good will?

We will take up some of these issues with Andy. Andy helped us on our Solar Siting in Klickitat County session two years ago and has agreed to help us understand what is at stake with the Farm Bill.

29 May 2023

Our Better Practices roundtable is on the first Thursday of each month at 6:30 pm.. Use the link above for 2023.

Our Policy Series is on the third Thursday of each month at 6:30 pm. Use the link above for 2023. 

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