2002-07-19 National Governors Association

Statement for the Record – 2002 Farm Bill

The purpose of this statement is to reflect the views of the National Governors Association on the Draft Farm Bill Concept Paper prepared by the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. We respectfully request that it be included as part of the record of the July 19, 2001 hearing before the House of Representative Committee on Agriculture.

The goal of federal agriculture policy should be the pursuit of a healthy and prosperous economy for America’s farmers and ranchers. U.S. agricultural policy attempts to achieve a variety of often conflicting goals. These goals include efforts to:

  • Minimize distortions in the marketplace and help farmers manage market downturns;
  • Foster efficient, family based agriculture;
  • Avoid interference with international market opportunities; and
  • Pursue natural resources conservation goals.

Harmonizing these goals in the context of a limited budget is a challenge for the federal government.

Following are NGA’s comments on the Draft Farm Bill Concept Paper as well as recommendations for other opportunities within the next Farm Bill.

Program Crops

The Governors support the principles outlined by the Committee for program crops. We agree that any support program must provide the maximum amount of flexibility to allow producers to make market-responsive production and marketing decisions. We also agree with providing counter-cyclical assistance. The next farm bill must provide appropriate mechanisms to help farmers and ranchers manage market downturns.

Conservation

Current funding levels for conservation programs do not come close to addressing the nation’s environmental needs. The current farm economy makes it difficult to expect a producer to invest scarce resources in non-revenue generating projects, and increased federal conservation dollars could help both the environmental needs of our nation and the economic needs of our farmers.

NGA agrees that the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) should be reauthorized. CRP continues to provide farmers with an alternative to production on environmentally sensitive lands. NGA wholeheartedly supports CRP, and believes the benefits justify continued funding at least at current levels.

The Governors also believe that USDA should be directed to approve, in a more timely manner, state-submitted Conservation Reserve Enhancement Programs, which are designed to focus federal and state resources on environmentally sensitive lands. Congress should also look to find other programs that would benefit from leveraged state and federal conservation dollars.

The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is another important conservation program. It ensures that wetlands will be restored or protected from development or agricultural production through perpetual or 30-year easements. This popular and important program can and should be continued in the next Farm Bill.

With respect to the Farmland Protection Program (FPP), NGA recommend that one-to-one federal matching grants to states and state-approved local jurisdictions continue to be authorized. Organizations such as non-profit land trusts and conservancies should be allowed to hold easements purchased with the grants.

Small watershed dam restoration is an extremely important project. We strongly support fully funding this program. These restoration projects must be completed to assure that small watershed dams meet critical safety standards and continue to provide the many benefits that are enjoyed by area communities.

The Governors have found that the programs authorized under the state and private forestry title of the 1996 farm bill have been effective in the area of community and landowner assistance, forestry incentives, and fire protection.

We are concerned that the Draft Farm Bill Concept Paper does not include a working lands conservation program. Congress must work to provide greater incentives for landowners to employ best conservation practices on all of their lands – including working lands. The need to ensure genuine stewardship of the nation’s natural resources poses one of the most significant challenges and opportunities facing agriculture today. We must work in partnership with private landowners to preserve and protect our national assets for future generations, while maximizing their lands’ productivity today.

New policy must build a national understanding of the importance of private lands conservation. Resource stewardship is the responsibility of all, and state and federal programs must help landowners by spreading the costs of conservation to all who benefit. The general public benefits when landowners employ good conservation practices, and farmers should be compensated for producing these valuable environmental commodities the same way they are paid to produce fruits, vegetables, grains, trees, and livestock.

The strengthening of state-federal partnerships is critical to implementing efficient and effective conservation programs. States are uniquely situated to provide the leadership needed to implement a simple, flexible conservation strategy that enables farmers and ranchers to develop a holistic farm resource management plan. Congress must strengthen the states’ role in the planning for – and allocation of – federal resources conservation dollars. States are responsible for achieving a wide variety of environmental protection goals, yet state officials are often not included in decisions affecting their state’s economies and environment. States should be given greater flexibility and an increased role in the allocation of federal monies funding to accommodate their priorities.

The diverse nature of America’s agricultural lands makes a one-size-fits-all approach to conservation impractical. A conservation program should be developed that allows Governors ? through partnerships with USDA and state governments ? to target priority lands within their state. Under such a program, Governors would be allowed to set priorities that address the unique issues and characteristics of a region that must be considered if a landowner is to be sufficiently empowered to produce the most environmental benefits, while continuing to utilize his or her assets.

States must continue to have responsibility for ensuring attainment and maintenance of federally approved state water quality standards, including the responsibility for ensuring that animal feeding operations do not cause violations of federally approved state water quality standards. The Governors recognize that the federal government has the authority to require a state to attain federally approved state water quality standards. However, the Governors should have the flexibility to design functionally equivalent programs best suited to their state’s needs to bring water quality into compliance with those standards, such as improving conservation practices through a voluntary, incentive-based approach.

Many states have nutrient management and permitting programs to address animal feeding operations. The current authority for states to develop these programs should not be preempted, nor should the federal government add conflicting requirements to existing state programs. The federal government should work with the states in developing a new strategy for animal feeding operations and should allow existing state programs to operate in lieu of new federal requirements, provided the existing state program, in combination with other point and non-point source measures, is effective in attaining and maintaining the federally approved state water quality standards.

State Technical Committees have improved coordination among local, state, and federal programs, including USDA programs. The State Technical Committees should be continued, while at the same time finding new ways to utilize their technical expertise to address a state’s specific areas of need.

Trade

Passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Uruguay Round, and the upcoming negotiations of the World Trade Organization promise expanded trade opportunities for the agriculture industry. Timely and effective marketing and development programs must be supported and modified to meet the new demands and changes in the domestic and international markets.

The role of the states and USDA in market promotion needs to be clarified to ensure complementary work and reduce duplication of effort. An emphasis should be placed on expanding the marketing of high-value and processed agricultural products and building a strong food processing base.

Funding for the Export Enhancement Program (EEP) should be maintained at maximum WTO levels, and USDA should be allowed to shift funds from EEP to the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development Program to stimulate and expand the country’s value-added market share.

The Governors encourage the continuation of MAP to assist farmers, cooperatives, and small companies in accessing the international market. Also, export credit guarantee programs should include shorter term (i.e. less than one year) credit guarantees.

Research

Because sound scientific research and technology transfer are the foundation for the continued success of American agriculture, the Governors support renewed efforts to strengthen agricultural research and extension programs and urge USDA to maintain an emphasis on its technology transfer mission to farmers. Specifically, the Governors support the identification, promotion, and expansion of research and development and commercialization of value-added products in agriculture. The Governors also urge that support be maintained for land-grant universities and agriculture experiment stations. Lastly, the Governors believe that a process must be established to identify and assess the scientific, consumer, or political barriers that inhibit the development of agricultural biotechnology and the marketing of biotechnology products.

Nutrition

We appreciate the Committee’s interest in improving quality control and simplifying state level program operations of the Food Stamp Program. The current Food Stamp Program is riddled with unnecessary complexities and we encourage the Committee to work with the nation’s Governors to make long overdue simplification changes that will both improve the effectiveness of the program and lead to better outcomes for recipients. We believe the upcoming debate on the farm bill offers an opportunity to bring a crucial component of the federal-state human services framework into the 21stCentury. As welfare reform has progressed throughout the country, policies within the Food Stamp Program have primarily remained stagnant. While there is a great deal of interest at the state level for greater coordination of state-administered programs, barriers in federal law and a lack of flexibility in program implementation at the state and local level often create obstacles to integration and simplification to programs such as food stamps.

Rural Development

The Governors place a very high priority on maintaining family-based agriculture. Keeping farm families on farms is critically important not only to the economies of our states, but to the quality of life we have come to expect in rural areas. Income from nonfarm sources is an increasingly important factor in farm income. More than one-half of all farm income is derived from nonfarm sources. A good job for the farmer and his or her spouse is essential to keeping a farming operation viable.

To effectively address the many needs of our nation’s rural communities, we must ensure that federal development initiatives are effectively targeted through greater reliance on states, increased flexibility for states in implementing federal programs, improved coordination of federal and state rural development services, and rural economies are provided greater opportunities to compete in local, state, and global markets.

Rural communities continue to need assistance in their efforts toward development. However, federal programs for assisting rural America are almost as diverse and isolated as rural communities themselves. The diversity of rural communities and the uniqueness of the needs of local areas require that rural development assistance programs be flexible enough to address a broad range of issues. This rural diversity makes it unlikely that one or even a set of federal policies can adequately address the needs of all rural areas. States can most effectively direct funds to priority needs that vary across the country. States are closer to these threatened communities and are better equipped to target resources efficiently and effectively to address local needs.

Congress recognized in the last Farm Bill through the Rural Community Advancement Program (RCAP) that state officials are more familiar with local conditions and better equipped to efficiently allocate scarce resources. RCAP has significantly devolved the delivery of rural development programs appropriately to the states. It has given rural communities and states greater influence in determining the expenditure of rural development funds, and is an innovative delivery system, which greatly improves the effectiveness of federal rural development programs.

In 1990, NGA joined with USDA to establish what has become known as the

The purpose of this statement is to reflect the views of the National Governors Association on the Draft Farm Bill Concept Paper prepared by the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. We respectfully request that it be included as part of the record of the July 19, 2001 hearing before the House of Representative Committee on Agriculture.

The goal of federal agriculture policy should be the pursuit of a healthy and prosperous economy for America’s farmers and ranchers. U.S. agricultural policy attempts to achieve a variety of often conflicting goals. These goals include efforts to:

  • Minimize distortions in the marketplace and help farmers manage market downturns;
  • Foster efficient, family based agriculture;
  • Avoid interference with international market opportunities; and
  • Pursue natural resources conservation goals.

Harmonizing these goals in the context of a limited budget is a challenge for the federal government.

Following are NGA’s comments on the Draft Farm Bill Concept Paper as well as recommendations for other opportunities within the next Farm Bill.

Program Crops

The Governors support the principles outlined by the Committee for program crops. We agree that any support program must provide the maximum amount of flexibility to allow producers to make market-responsive production and marketing decisions. We also agree with providing counter-cyclical assistance. The next farm bill must provide appropriate mechanisms to help farmers and ranchers manage market downturns.

Conservation

Current funding levels for conservation programs do not come close to addressing the nation’s environmental needs. The current farm economy makes it difficult to expect a producer to invest scarce resources in non-revenue generating projects, and increased federal conservation dollars could help both the environmental needs of our nation and the economic needs of our farmers.

NGA agrees that the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) should be reauthorized. CRP continues to provide farmers with an alternative to production on environmentally sensitive lands. NGA wholeheartedly supports CRP, and believes the benefits justify continued funding at least at current levels.

The Governors also believe that USDA should be directed to approve, in a more timely manner, state-submitted Conservation Reserve Enhancement Programs, which are designed to focus federal and state resources on environmentally sensitive lands. Congress should also look to find other programs that would benefit from leveraged state and federal conservation dollars.

The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is another important conservation program. It ensures that wetlands will be restored or protected from development or agricultural production through perpetual or 30-year easements. This popular and important program can and should be continued in the next Farm Bill.

With respect to the Farmland Protection Program (FPP), NGA recommend that one-to-one federal matching grants to states and state-approved local jurisdictions continue to be authorized. Organizations such as non-profit land trusts and conservancies should be allowed to hold easements purchased with the grants.

Small watershed dam restoration is an extremely important project. We strongly support fully funding this program. These restoration projects must be completed to assure that small watershed dams meet critical safety standards and continue to provide the many benefits that are enjoyed by area communities.

The Governors have found that the programs authorized under the state and private forestry title of the 1996 farm bill have been effective in the area of community and landowner assistance, forestry incentives, and fire protection.

We are concerned that the Draft Farm Bill Concept Paper does not include a working lands conservation program. Congress must work to provide greater incentives for landowners to employ best conservation practices on all of their lands – including working lands. The need to ensure genuine stewardship of the nation’s natural resources poses one of the most significant challenges and opportunities facing agriculture today. We must work in partnership with private landowners to preserve and protect our national assets for future generations, while maximizing their lands’ productivity today.

New policy must build a national understanding of the importance of private lands conservation. Resource stewardship is the responsibility of all, and state and federal programs must help landowners by spreading the costs of conservation to all who benefit. The general public benefits when landowners employ good conservation practices, and farmers should be compensated for producing these valuable environmental commodities the same way they are paid to produce fruits, vegetables, grains, trees, and livestock.

The strengthening of state-federal partnerships is critical to implementing efficient and effective conservation programs. States are uniquely situated to provide the leadership needed to implement a simple, flexible conservation strategy that enables farmers and ranchers to develop a holistic farm resource management plan. Congress must strengthen the states’ role in the planning for – and allocation of – federal resources conservation dollars. States are responsible for achieving a wide variety of environmental protection goals, yet state officials are often not included in decisions affecting their state’s economies and environment. States should be given greater flexibility and an increased role in the allocation of federal monies funding to accommodate their priorities.

The diverse nature of America’s agricultural lands makes a one-size-fits-all approach to conservation impractical. A conservation program should be developed that allows Governors ? through partnerships with USDA and state governments ? to target priority lands within their state. Under such a program, Governors would be allowed to set priorities that address the unique issues and characteristics of a region that must be considered if a landowner is to be sufficiently empowered to produce the most environmental benefits, while continuing to utilize his or her assets.

States must continue to have responsibility for ensuring attainment and maintenance of federally approved state water quality standards, including the responsibility for ensuring that animal feeding operations do not cause violations of federally approved state water quality standards. The Governors recognize that the federal government has the authority to require a state to attain federally approved state water quality standards. However, the Governors should have the flexibility to design functionally equivalent programs best suited to their state’s needs to bring water quality into compliance with those standards, such as improving conservation practices through a voluntary, incentive-based approach.

Many states have nutrient management and permitting programs to address animal feeding operations. The current authority for states to develop these programs should not be preempted, nor should the federal government add conflicting requirements to existing state programs. The federal government should work with the states in developing a new strategy for animal feeding operations and should allow existing state programs to operate in lieu of new federal requirements, provided the existing state program, in combination with other point and non-point source measures, is effective in attaining and maintaining the federally approved state water quality standards.

State Technical Committees have improved coordination among local, state, and federal programs, including USDA programs. The State Technical Committees should be continued, while at the same time finding new ways to utilize their technical expertise to address a state’s specific areas of need.

Trade

Passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Uruguay Round, and the upcoming negotiations of the World Trade Organization promise expanded trade opportunities for the agriculture industry. Timely and effective marketing and development programs must be supported and modified to meet the new demands and changes in the domestic and international markets.

The role of the states and USDA in market promotion needs to be clarified to ensure complementary work and reduce duplication of effort. An emphasis should be placed on expanding the marketing of high-value and processed agricultural products and building a strong food processing base.

Funding for the Export Enhancement Program (EEP) should be maintained at maximum WTO levels, and USDA should be allowed to shift funds from EEP to the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development Program to stimulate and expand the country’s value-added market share.

The Governors encourage the continuation of MAP to assist farmers, cooperatives, and small companies in accessing the international market. Also, export credit guarantee programs should include shorter term (i.e. less than one year) credit guarantees.

Research

Because sound scientific research and technology transfer are the foundation for the continued success of American agriculture, the Governors support renewed efforts to strengthen agricultural research and extension programs and urge USDA to maintain an emphasis on its technology transfer mission to farmers. Specifically, the Governors support the identification, promotion, and expansion of research and development and commercialization of value-added products in agriculture. The Governors also urge that support be maintained for land-grant universities and agriculture experiment stations. Lastly, the Governors believe that a process must be established to identify and assess the scientific, consumer, or political barriers that inhibit the development of agricultural biotechnology and the marketing of biotechnology products.

Nutrition

We appreciate the Committee’s interest in improving quality control and simplifying state level program operations of the Food Stamp Program. The current Food Stamp Program is riddled with unnecessary complexities and we encourage the Committee to work with the nation’s Governors to make long overdue simplification changes that will both improve the effectiveness of the program and lead to better outcomes for recipients. We believe the upcoming debate on the farm bill offers an opportunity to bring a crucial component of the federal-state human services framework into the 21stCentury. As welfare reform has progressed throughout the country, policies within the Food Stamp Program have primarily remained stagnant. While there is a great deal of interest at the state level for greater coordination of state-administered programs, barriers in federal law and a lack of flexibility in program implementation at the state and local level often create obstacles to integration and simplification to programs such as food stamps.

Rural Development

The Governors place a very high priority on maintaining family-based agriculture. Keeping farm families on farms is critically important not only to the economies of our states, but to the quality of life we have come to expect in rural areas. Income from nonfarm sources is an increasingly important factor in farm income. More than one-half of all farm income is derived from nonfarm sources. A good job for the farmer and his or her spouse is essential to keeping a farming operation viable.

To effectively address the many needs of our nation’s rural communities, we must ensure that federal development initiatives are effectively targeted through greater reliance on states, increased flexibility for states in implementing federal programs, improved coordination of federal and state rural development services, and rural economies are provided greater opportunities to compete in local, state, and global markets.

Rural communities continue to need assistance in their efforts toward development. However, federal programs for assisting rural America are almost as diverse and isolated as rural communities themselves. The diversity of rural communities and the uniqueness of the needs of local areas require that rural development assistance programs be flexible enough to address a broad range of issues. This rural diversity makes it unlikely that one or even a set of federal policies can adequately address the needs of all rural areas. States can most effectively direct funds to priority needs that vary across the country. States are closer to these threatened communities and are better equipped to target resources efficiently and effectively to address local needs.

Congress recognized in the last Farm Bill through the Rural Community Advancement Program (RCAP) that state officials are more familiar with local conditions and better equipped to efficiently allocate scarce resources. RCAP has significantly devolved the delivery of rural development programs appropriately to the states. It has given rural communities and states greater influence in determining the expenditure of rural development funds, and is an innovative delivery system, which greatly improves the effectiveness of federal rural development programs.

In 1990, NGA joined with USDA to establish what has become known as the National Rural Development Partnership (NRDP). The NRDP was established to help rural community leaders, government policy makers, and agency program administrators coordinate their efforts to address rural community needs. The NRDP enables participants to deal with all of the issues facing rural America and to cut across virtually every public program and policy at all levels of government. This state-federal partnership can help to more effectively target both state and federal resources. We urge the Committee to acknowledge and take advantage of this existing mechanism.

NGA supports the committee’s intent to provide for regionally planned rural development pilot programs. The Governors believe federal rural development programs should permit state to utilize regional partnerships and provide flexibility for “cross-border” uses and joint strategic planning when states so choose.

The Governors agree that we must expand high-speed internet access to rural communities. Technological advancement provides the means for long-term economic growth, for a better standard of living and quality of life for all citizens. Broadband Internet access will provide an essential tool for economic development.

The 2002 Farm Bill represents a historic opportunity to help farmers, ranchers, and private foresters compete in today’s expanding global marketplace, meet the environmental challenges of the agricultural community, preserve family-based farms, and facilitate the further development of rural communities. The National Governors Association (NGA) appreciates the opportunity to provide our comments and recommendations, and commends the Committee for its leadership.