WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-Elizabethtown), North Carolina’s most senior member of the Agriculture Committee, hailed this week’s passage of the Farm Bill by the Senate as the final congressional action needed for the bill to become law.
The Senate followed the House’s lead from last week, and now the Agricultural Act of 2014 heads to the President’s desk for his expected signature.
“This is great day for our farmers, families, and all North Carolinians,” McIntyre said. “The passage of this Farm Bill shows how much we can accomplish when members of the House and Senate work together in a bipartisan way to address our nation’s most pressing needs. It has been an honor to work with my Senate colleagues to create a Farm Bill that will create jobs, save taxpayer dollars, grow our economy, and provide certainty for our farmers.”
Congressman McIntyre worked to secure top North Carolina priorities in the 2014 farm bill including:
— Offering Producers a Choice in Risk Management Tools: Since every crop is unique and comes with its own set of risks, McIntyre strongly supported offering producers a choice in their risk management tools. The 2014 conference agreement allows producers to choose between two counter-cyclical farm safety net programs, which only kick in when farmers are suffering. The Price Loss Coverage option addresses deep, multiple-year price declines, while the Agriculture Risk Coverage addresses revenue losses.
— Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) for Producers: With direct payments ending, the future of the farm safety net is crop insurance and commodity programs. Together, these two components ensure farmers have a stake in the game, and help is there only when producers are suffering. With this in mind, Congressman McIntyre supported the inclusion of SCO, which gives producers the option to buy supplemental coverage to address a portion of their losses not covered by traditional crop insurance policies.
— Supplemental Insurance and Transition Assistance for Cotton: McIntyre worked to include the Stacked Income Protection Plan, a policy that serves as a supplemental insurance option exclusively for cotton producers. The policy, often referred to as STAX, is similar to SCO and will complement existing crop insurance products that control against severe downside losses while allowing producers to address shallow loses through supplemental coverage.
— Livestock Disaster Program: McIntyre worked to include full reauthorization of the Livestock Indemnity Program, an important tool to help livestock producers survive disaster events that cause livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality. This program, which is an integral component of the agricultural safety net, serves as a backstop to producers who experience severe hardship.
— Poultry Business Interruption Insurance: McIntyre authored a provision to research and develop an insurance product to help poultry producers control against the risks of integrator bankruptcy. Poultry growers rely on ongoing relationships with integrators that have been established over many years. Rising feed costs and decreased poultry consumption have resulted in widespread integrator bankruptcies, and when an integrator goes under, contracted growers are often left with no market for the chickens or turkeys.
— Safety Net for Peanut Producers: Congressman McIntyre worked with Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson to include a traditional price-triggered counter cyclical type farm safety net program as an option for producers that sets a statutory target price for peanuts and provides the predictability peanut growers need.
— Enhancements for Peanut Insurance: With peanut producers looking for better ways to manage their risks, McIntyre worked to successfully include a provision to tie the peanut crop insurance program to the Rotterdam internationally traded price of peanuts. This reform would, for the first time, give peanuts a reliable price discovery mechanism to signal movements in prices and the market. The Rotterdam price reflects global trends in the production and consumption of the commodity and is a viable reference that can be used in the federal crop insurance program.
— Whole Farm Insurance Policy: McIntyre was able to include a policy that, for the first time, will allow for whole farm insurance. Under this policy, diversified farms will have the option to insure their entire operations with one policy instead of purchasing many different policies for the variety of crops they grow. The policy will protect producers while lower their costs, and adds no additional cost to the federal government.
— Specialty Crop Enhancements: North Carolina is one of the most diverse agricultural states in the nation, with production in over 80 different commodities. McIntyre ensured the inclusion of a number of key priorities for the specialty crop industry including – robust funding for Plant Pest and Disease Program and the Specialty Crop Block Grant – two important tools that are fueling the growth of the specialty crop industry in North Carolina.
— Building Rural Communities Act: An amendment that McIntyre successfully offered during committee consideration was included in the conference report that would, at no additional cost to the American taxpayer, provide technical assistance and project-planning to rural communities to strengthen local economies and save rural jobs; ensure compliance with federal and state regulations; enhance public health and safety; and improve emergency preparedness.
— Maintained Funding for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): Pork producers are interested in managing their operations in environmentally sound and sustainable fashion. McIntyre worked to ensure reauthorization of this important program which pork producers rely upon to maintain and improve their environmental stewardship practices in their operations. This program has a track record for delivering large results from modest investments.
— Enhances Provisions for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: Agriculture is the backbone of our nation’s economy, and a mainstay of North Carolina’s economic vitality, but the average age of the American farmer is 57 years old. McIntyre cosponsored legislation that was included in the conference report to support beginning farmers and ranchers and help them get off on the right foot. The bill also provides outreach to military veterans looking to start agribusinesses.
— Strong Rural Development Title: One of McIntyre’s top priorities since his first days in Congress has been rural development. He tirelessly worked to strengthen critical rural development programs that help small communities build hospitals, schools, fire houses, police departments and community centers. He ensured water and wastewater programs received robust funding to help rural communities acquire the most basic of public services – access to healthy drinking water and sanitary sewers. And he worked to provide mandatory funding for an important program that he authored in the 2008 farm bill, the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, which helps rebuild our economy and strengthen Main Street by supporting the development of businesses with fewer than 10 employees.
— Rural Energy Efficiency: McIntyre was able to include a provision to enable the Rural Utilities Service at USDA to help finance energy efficiency projects throughout the country. This effort is inspired by a pilot project that was implemented by Brunswick EMC as a part of the “recovery through retrofit” effort at USDA. The Brunswick EMC project was a broad-based energy efficiency project that served as one of the models for this new energy efficiency authority in the Farm Bill.