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Farm bill likely to be farmers’ top legislative priority for new year

WASHINGTON—American farmers and ranchers are again setting their sights on a new federal farm bill.

“I’m optimistic that (Congress is) going to be able to get this done in the first few weeks of the new year,” said Bob Young, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Young said he believes Congress also will pass the Water Resources Development Act in fairly short order and that tax issues and immigration reform will get considerable attention in 2014. He also expects U.S. agriculture to face some economic challenges.

“The prices that we’re going to talk about this year for corn, for example, are a couple of dollars a bushel less than what they were last year and probably just at the point where you’re going to barely cover all your costs but not have much of a return left over at all. Very different from what you had in 2013,” Young said.

“Livestock guys, on the other hand, very different story. We’re going to talk about higher cattle prices. We’re going to talk about higher hog prices. You have to think sympathetically that the poultry prices are going to move as well. Across the board for the livestock folks, noticeably lower feed costs. And so, that being the case, I think the livestock guys are going to be probably in much better shape in 2014 than they were same time 2013.”

As interest rates begin to rise, he noted, farmers should be careful about taking on new debt.

AFBF general counsel Ellen Steen said a water-related federal district court decision that Farm Bureau is appealing also stands to have significant impact on U.S. farms and ranches. Farm Bureau unsuccessfully challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to impose a “pollution diet” on the six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“For us, it really isn’t a regional issue at all. It’s about the scope of EPA’s power to require changes in land use activity, to micro-manage land use decision-making across a vast landscape to achieve water quality goals. This is something the federal Clean Water Act left to the states because it involves intensely local land use decisions. But EPA has said it has the power to reach across the landscape and literally say, ‘You can farm here, but not here. You can build houses here, but not here,’ and we challenge that authority.”

Steen said the appellate court ruling will set an important precedent that is likely to prompt many states to weigh in.

Media: Contact Tracy Taylor Grondine, 202-406-3642, or Cyndie Sirekis, 202-406-3649, AFBF communications. 


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