Spring 2024

Farmers Union members from across the country will be in Washington, DC this Spring to make their legislative priorities heard.

Family farmers, ranchers, and our communities not only need a farm bill now, but they also need the right farm bill now. Since 2017, approximately 150,000 farms have gone out of business. We can stem the tide of these losses by establishing a stronger farm safety net, building fairer and more competitive markets, and by creating better opportunities for the next generation of farmers. Let’s pass this farm bill by building a broad coalition through addition, not division.

2024 Policy Priorities

Farmers Union members from across the country are in Washington, DC to advocate for a strong farm bill that addresses the monopoly crisis in agriculture, bolsters the farm safety net, and helps family farmers and ranchers tackle climate change. We urge Congress to act on these priorities in the upcoming farm bill. 

Farm Safety Net

Since 2018, a series of ad hoc production-, price-, and tariff- based disaster programs have been implemented via acts of Congress or action by USDA. These efforts provided tens of billions of dollars in support to farmers and ranchers but are not permanently authorized nor are they included in baseline funding levels for the 2023 Farm Bill. These programs include the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP and later WHIP+), the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP and CFAP 2), and the Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative.  USDA has taken steps to combine and streamline the application process and administration for these many programs, most recently through the Emergency Relief Program (ERP).  

The next farm bill should reflect the lessons learned from the last five years. It should ensure that costs of previous ad hoc disaster programs are reflected in the farm bill budget and baseline. The farm bill should include eligibility and payment caps to maintain fairness and program integrity, incentivize the use of sustainable and climate-smart farming practices, and avoid undermining crop insurance.  

Crop insurance is a valuable tool for farmers to manage their risk. Price volatility and extreme weather are two of the biggest reasons why farmers are forced out of business. Through a public-private partnership, farmers receive timely, reliable, and effective assistance from the crop insurance policies they purchase at a reduced price.  

Concepts have been put forward for how stronger crop insurance can help farmers protect against losses due to disasters. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) introduced the Federal Agriculture Risk Management Enhancement and Resilience (FARMER Act), which would increase premium support for the highest levels of coverage, reduce producer deductibles, and partially eliminate the need for ad hoc disaster assistance. Similarly, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, penned a letter in January 2024 that outlined her idea of how to increase premium support for crop insurance. Sen. Stabenow’s proposal differs from Sen. Hoeven’s in that it would require producers to choose between enhanced crop insurance coverage and participation in commodity support programs like Price Loss Coverage (PLC). 

Delegates to this year’s NFU convention adopted a special order of business that notes the last farm bill fell short of providing the support farmers needed due to market disruptions and weather disasters. NFU delegates called for Congress to pass a farm bill that is fiscally responsible, directs improvements to farm bill programs to family farms and ranches, and mitigates or offset the cost of these improvements through subsidy limits or eligibility restrictions. 

The Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) program is a crop-neutral revenue insurance product designed to protect a farmer’s entire operation, including livestock, not just one crop. WFRP is intended to provide diversified and diversifying farms that might not have access to separate crop or revenue insurance policies for each crop they grow an option to insure all their crops and livestock under one policy. But right now, too few producers find this program accessible and available.  

Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Peter Welch (D-VT), John Fetterman (D-PA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) introduced the Whole Farm Revenue Protection Program Improvement Act, to ensure that more farms are able to access crop insurance. The bill will direct the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) to streamline access to WFRP and close the coverage gap for our country’s small to mid-sized, beginning, specialty crop, and diversified producers. 

Since the 2014 Farm Bill, commodity crop farmers have had access to two vital economic safety nets: the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program and the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program. PLC provides assistance when prices drop below a level set in statute, and ARC triggers if revenues fall below the average level of previous years. However, farmers may enroll cropland in only one of these two programs. Market and growing conditions are volatile, so this choice sometimes leads to lower levels of assistance. Farm program participants should have the option to enroll in both ARC and PLC so that they are protected against losses due to declines in price as well as in revenue. A dual enrollment option would remove much of the uncertainty from the annual program sign-up decision and would provide farmers with the higher-of assistance level for either ARC or PLC.  

Broad and Unified Farm Bill Coalition

 The farm bill is not only an agriculture bill – it is also a food bill. The farm bill nutrition title is key to reducing hunger and poverty in our country. A major portion of the nutrition title funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), once known as food stamps. For decades, SNAP has served as the nation’s primary food safety net, allowing families to meet their most basic needs when they face difficult economic circumstances.  

Food and farm programs go hand-in-hand and should continue to be included in the same comprehensive legislation. We should reject any proposed cuts to critical food and nutrition safety net programs in the farm bill that help feed hungry Americans. NFU supports maintaining a strong farm bill nutrition title that supports food and nutrition security, reduces hunger in our communities, and expands access to local and regional farm products. 

Hotter heatwaves, drier droughts, wilder wildfires, and other extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change are making farming and ranching more difficult. Historic, recent investments from Congress in voluntary, incentive-based agricultural conservation programs and renewable energy programs are helping farmers adapt to a changing climate, play a larger role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while supporting new market opportunities for climate-smart commodities. Congress should protect this funding in the next farm bill to ensure family farmers and our communities have the resources they need to build a more resilient future. 

Next Generation of Farmers

More than 40 percent of agricultural land in the United States is owned by people aged 65 and older, which means more than 370 million acres of farmland will be transferred over the next two decades. However, access to quality and affordable land is one of the greatest challenges facing beginning and young farmers and ranchers. Most farmland is not sold on the open market, and is often sold only to well-capitalized, well established buyers.  

  • The Farm Transitions Act of 2024 establishes a commission at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study the issues impacting the transition of agricultural operations to the next generation of farmers and ranchers and make subsequent recommendations to address them. 

The Farm Transitions Act (S.4018/H.R.7769) is sponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Mike Braun (R-IN) and Representatives Yadira Caraveo (D-CO), Trent Kelly (R-MS), Zach Nunn (R-IA), and Don Davis (D-NC). 

Crop insurance is an essential part of the farm safety net for many farmers and ranchers. To help facilitate the transfer of land to the next generation of farmers, the Crop Insurance for Future Farmers Act (S.2458/H.R.3904), sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD), and Reps. Randy Feenstra (R-IA) and Angie Craig (D-MN), would improve the affordability of crop insurance for beginning and veteran farmers.  

The bill extends the benefits for beginning and veteran farmers through the federal crop insurance program by extending their eligibility period from five to ten years. This means that more beginning and veteran farmers would remain eligible for incentives, including exemptions from administrative fees and higher premium subsidies, thereby allowing the next generation of farmers to manage risk at lower cost when their operations are most vulnerable.  

Fairness for Farmers

The Fairness for Small-Scale Farmers and Ranchers Act is championed by Representative Greg Casar (D-TX) and Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) and addresses corporate consolidation in our nation’s food system.  

The bill would prohibit large agribusiness and grocery mergers and require retroactive reviews of such mergers, expand the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), strengthen the Packers & Stockyards Act, and implement mandatory COOL for beef, pork, poultry, and dairy. The Fairness for Small-Scale Farmers and Ranchers Act is, in many respects, a competition title and is a good example of what NFU seeks in the next farm bill. 

Farmers and ranchers deserve the Right to Repair their own farm equipment or to do business with the mechanic of their choosing. But farm equipment manufacturers are standing in the way. Modern farm equipment requires software tools to complete certain repairs and manufacturers have withheld full access to those tools, giving farmers no choice but to take equipment back to the dealership. This has created a repair monopoly for manufacturers and dealers, reducing competition, inflating service prices, and creating service delays during tight planting and harvest windows.  

The solution is Right to Repair legislation that gives farmers and ranchers access, on fair and reasonable terms, to the tools and information required to make timely farm equipment repairs. Progress has already been made at the state level; in April 2023, Colorado became the first state to enact a Right to Repair law for agriculture. But the fight is not over, because farmers across the country deserve the Right to Repair. 

The Agricultural Right to Repair Act (H.R.5604), introduced by Representatives Marie Gluezenkamp Perez (WA-03), Joe Neguse (CO-02), Elissa Slotkin (MI-07), and Abigail Spanberger (VA-07) would establish a nationwide, comprehensive framework to ensure farmers have the Right to Repair their farm equipment. 

Today’s thinly traded cash market for cattle is susceptible to manipulation by packers, which leads to lower prices received by producers. Preserving a robust cash market is essential for price discovery.     

The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act would establish regional minimums for cash trades to bolster and protect price discovery in cattle markets. The bill requires better reporting of 14-day slaughter counts, carcass weights, and cutout yield data, all of which will give producers better insight into the market and more leverage when negotiating prices for their cattle. The bill also makes permanent a cattle contract library to disclose more information about the marketing arrangements used in the cattle market.   

The bill was introduced by Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE), Jon Tester (D-MT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and by Representatives Randy Feenstra (R-IA), Mike Levin (D-CA), and Marianette Miller-Meeks (R-IA). 

Additional Priorities

The Rural Partnership and Prosperity Act would create a Rural Partnership Program Grants program that provides multiyear, flexible awards to communities so they can better address urgent needs such as access to affordable and available childcare, housing, and job training. Rural communities should be able to navigate existing federal funding opportunities and this bill would provide the necessary technical assistance they need to get their fair share of available private and federal investment.  

Farmers Union supports initiatives that promote better utilization of existing programs and funds, especially for rural communities in need and also supports promoting development and local expertise to make the best use of available programs.  Legislation like this ensures that rural America continues to secure much needed opportunities that will enable it to continue to expand and thrive in today’s world.  

The bill was introduced by Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Bob Casey (D-PA) in the Senate and Representatives Andrea Salinas (D-OR-06) and David Valadao (R-CA-22) in the House of Representatives.  

Farmers Union has long advocated for greater mental and behavioral health resources for farmers and rural communities. The Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) is a critical program that connects farmers, ranchers, farmworkers, and their families to stress assistance programs. The Farmers First Act reauthorizes and increases funding for FRSAN to expand access to mental health services in our farm and rural communities.   

There are many causes of stress among farmers and ranchers, including the financial risk involved in agriculture, corporate consolidation in our food system, and achanging climate. Access to care remains limited, as rural areas face significant mental health professional shortages. FRSAN is essential for serving populations where the need is great, and resources are limited.   

Legislation in the farm bill can help boost our nation’s liquid fuel supply and transition new combustion vehicles to use advanced engines that take advantage of higher-octane fuels, like higher blends of ethanol. This transition would increase the amount of ethanol that can be utilized in the fuel supply while also lowering prices at the pump for farmers and consumers.   

Due to ethanol’s high-octane rating, greater ethanol blends result in both additional fuel efficiency and significant greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. Ethanol is also priced lower than gasoline, making it the most cost-effective octane source. The Next Generation Fuels Act would establish a minimum research octane number (RON) standard of 98 for gasoline, which is higher than the typical octane of 91. It also requires the added octane value to reduce carbon emissions by at least 40 percent compared to regular gasoline.    

By requiring high-octane fuel to use low-carbon sources, the Next Generation Fuels Act will decarbonize liquid fuels as vehicle technologies advance. This requirement, coupled with a new limit on harmful aromatics content, ensures that progress already made to expand the use of ethanol while lowering emissions will continue.