MANHATTAN, Kan. When Congress reconvenes in late January, one of its charges will be to hammer out a new Farm Bill.
"Its basically down to three proposals," said Kansas State University agricultural economist Barry Flinchbaugh of the farm plans likely to be debated on Capitol Hill.
Those proposals are the House Bill, the Senate Agriculture Committee Bill, and the Roberts-Cochran Bill.
Consequences of the three proposals will focus on four key areas: the marketing loan; fixed payments; counter-cyclical safety net; and a greater emphasis on environmental and conservation provisions, Flinchbaugh said.
"Our Congressional delegation is quite interested in the feedback," Flinchbaugh said.
A common thread running through all three proposals is a "greatly enhanced" provision for conservation and environmental programs about 80 percent more than are provided for by current law, the economist said.
Flinchbaugh believes that Congress will finish the work on a new Farm Bill this spring, long before the expiration of the current legislation at the end of September.
"Were clearly ahead of the game based on previous Farm Bills," he added.
While the three plans are similar in some ways, there are differences.
The House Bill retains the marketing loan, but realigns payments on oilseeds. This plan lowers the loan rate on soybeans to $4.92 per bushel, because the current program heavily promotes oilseed production over feedgrains production, Flinchbaugh said.
"The real change [in the House Bill] is that it reintroduces the target price program that was in the 90 legislation," he said. "But it decouples payments from current production levels."
The Senate Agriculture Committee Bill significantly increases the loan rate program, and provides much higher price supports, the economist said. It keeps the fixed payment but ratchets it down to below the House version. This Bill also reinstates target prices also called income protection prices.
The Bill introduces conservation measures through the Conservation Security Act, which makes payments to farmers based on three tiers of conservation practices.
The Roberts-Cochran Bill, also called the Cochran-Roberts Bill, keeps loan rates generally the same as the House Bill would, Flinchbaugh said. However, it provides for significantly higher fixed payments than the other two proposals. This Bill also introduces a counter-cyclical farm savings account which allows a farmer to put funds into an account that would be matched by the federal government up to $10,000. In years when a farmers gross income falls below historical levels, farmers can draw funds from the account, including the government funds.
Conservation provisions written into the Roberts-Cochran Bill are similar to the House Bill, Flinchbaugh said.
"The uniqueness of the House Bill is that it reinstates the target price plan, while the Senate Ag Committee Bill reverts back to greater price supports," he added. "The Roberts-Cochran Bill is similar to the current farm program but also adds a farm savings account."
All three plans will be discussed at a series of 11 Farm Bill Seminars to be held around the state of Kansas in January and February. The seminars will be sponsored by K-State Research and Extension and the K-State Department of Agricultural Economics.
Brad Lubben, Extension economist for northeast Kansas, and Clay Simons, Extension risk management assistant, will join Flinchbaugh on the seminar program. Also in western Kansas, Extension economists Dan OBrien and Troy Dumler will participate on the program. Attendees will have the opportunity to break into smaller groups to discuss the proposals and provide input.
Dates, locations and contact telephone numbers for the Farm Bill Seminars in Kansas are:
Jan. 22: Hays, (785) 628-9430
Jan. 23: Salina, (785) 309-5850
Jan. 24: Hutchinson, (620) 662-2371
Jan. 25: Manhattan, (785) 537-6350
Jan. 28: Nortonville, (913) 833-5450
Feb.11: Colby, (785) 462-4582
Feb.12; Dodge City, (620) 227-4542
Feb. 13: Hugoton, (620) 544-4359
Feb. 14: Scott City, (620) 872-2930
Feb. 21: Garnett, (785) 448-6826
Feb. 22: Independence, (620) 331-2690.
For more information Barry Flinchbaugh can be contacted at (785) 532-1505.