Final bill report contains surprises

The final House-Senate farm bill conference report passed by the House hit its spending target of $73.5 billion above the 10-year baseline funding for agriculture with a little change.

But it took a series of adjustments to get the projections within the budget resolution spending cap, and some producers may be surprised to find they will not be receiving as much as they initially thought in target prices and fixed or AMTA payments.

Farm bill negotiators reportedly were as much as $500 million over the spending cap as they hammered out the details of the compromise report over the weekend of April 27-28. But the final figure is a few million dollars below that level, according to House Agricultural Committee Chairman Larry Combest.

“People were told that if you make a change in the agreement and it costs money, it will have to be offset and it will come out of the funding for your crop,” said one farm organization lobbyist.

Corn growers, for example, would receive a higher loan rate than that proposed in the House bill or $1.98 per bushel in 2002 and 2003 and $1.95 in 2004-07 in the final conference report. The House bill set the loan rates at $1.89 for corn and $4.92 for soybeans.

But the corn target price was dropped from $2.64 per bushel in the initial reports on the compromise to $2.60 in 2002-03 and $2.63 in 2004-07. The soybean loan rate went from $5.03 in 2002-03 and $4.96 in 2004-07 to $5 for all six years of the farm bill. Conferees reduced the soybean target from $5.82 to $5.80 per bushel.

The Agricultural Market Transition Act (AMTA) fixed payment for corn also fell from 30 cents per bushel in the initial estimates to 28 cents per bushel in the final conference report.

The fixed payments for sorghum went from 36 cents to 35 cents, for wheat from 53 cents to 52 cents, for soybeans from 45 cents to 44 cents. The fixed payments for cotton and rice remained at 6.67 cents per pound and $2.35 per hundredweight.

The rice target price dropped 15 cents per hundredweight (from $10.65 to $10.50) to provide a higher yield adjustment factor in the calculation for updating payment yields.

According to initial reports, farmers could have updated their yields using the higher of 70 percent of the difference between current AMTA yields and a full yield update based on 1998-2001 yields on planted acreage or 90 percent of 1998-2001 yields on planted acreage.

The final report replaces the 90 percent with a 93.5 percent factor, allowing producers to come closer to actual current yields rather than having to rely on payment yields that were last updated in 1985.

Although some senators were expected to argue against passage when the report was scheduled to come to the Senate floor May 7-8, most major commodity organizations were urging the Senate to pass the conference report and send it to the president for his signature as quickly as possible.

e-mail: [email protected].

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