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North Dakota Producers Look for Certainty in Farm Bill

North Dakota farmers hope to find predictability in this year's Farm Bill. (Clairegran/Twenty20)
North Dakota farmers hope to find predictability in this year's Farm Bill. (Clairegran/Twenty20)
May 14, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota farmers are watching closely as the 2018 Farm Bill inches its way through Congress. The U.S. House could vote on its current version of the bill as soon as this week.

President of the North Dakota Farmers Union Mark Watne said proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, could hold it up, though, especially with representatives from urban areas. On the agriculture side, Watne said farmers, who have had a number of down years, need more support through a better safety net.

"The key is a strong crop insurance," Watne said. "It's making reference prices or the safety nets higher with more dollars, and then having programs where farmers do specific things that help beyond their land, which they're very good stewards of. They could get some compensation for the extra work that helps and benefits all."

Watne said reference prices should be increased to better reflect the cost of production. He said farmers need certainty in this bill, pointing to unpredictability in the market from factors such as a weakened renewable-fuels standard and potential trade wars.

President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the Farm Bill if it doesn't include work requirements for food stamp beneficiaries.

Watne said the bill should focus on supporting small family farmers in a targeted way.

"We just think it's good for communities to have lots of farmers,” she said. “We think it's good for the taxpayer to only support to a certain level, and we think that that encourages diversity in farms and encourages much more people to stay out on the land to be able to keep our communities sound."

The U.S. Senate is still working on its version of the Farm Bill. The current bill expires in September.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND