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Hoeven holds farm bill roundtable

CASSELTON, N.D. -- Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., says crop insurance is the No. 1 unifying factor for commodity organizations, and the current drought helps make the case for it.

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U.S. John Hoeven, R-N.D., right, and North Dakota State Rep. Michael Howe, R-West Fargo, hosted a farm bill roundtable discussion at the Howe family's seed farm business near Casselton on Aug. 22, 2017. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

CASSELTON, N.D. - Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., says crop insurance is the No. 1 unifying factor for commodity organizations, and the current drought helps make the case for it.

"In a drought year like this year, you see why crop insurance is No. 1," Hoeven said. "We have to maintain a really strong program, maintain the support for the program so that help is there when they don't have a crop."

Hoeven held a farm bill roundtable meeting at the Michael Howe farm east of Casselton, N.D., on Tuesday, Aug. 22, getting input from a variety of commodity and farm groups. Howe lives in West Fargo and is a state representative and member of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, which represents both wheat and barley farmers.

Hoeven said there should be good support for a strong farm bill in congressional agriculture committees, but he says agricultural legislators - from the South, the North and the Big I (Iowa, Indiana and Illinois) need to stick together - so the programs can be defended in full floor debate.

He said the existing program, if scored over a coming 10-year period, would "save over $100 billion." He says he'll argue that the counter-cyclical safety net is the most cost-effective way to make sure there's a safety net.

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SNAP tie

A member of both the Senate Agriculture Committee and Appropriations Committee, Hoeven said keeping the commodity titles tied to the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) will be vital to getting it passed.

"Good farm policy benefits every single American every single day," Hoeven said. "We have the highest-quality, lowest-cost food supply of any nation in the world."

He expects tweaks in the counter-cyclical safety net programs called PLC (Price Loss Coverage) and ARC (Agricultural Risk Coverage). He thinks the ARC programs can improve how the Olympic averages are figured and the effects on payments in multi-year price declines.

Dale Ihry, executive director of the North Dakota Corn Growers Association, suggested particular tweeks on ARC, and Hoeven urged him and others to get supporting figures into Washington, D.C., by the end of the year so this part of the country can start building the case for programs that work here.

Dan Wogsland, executive director of the NDGGA, asked Hoeven to host a field hearing on the farm bill in North Dakota, and Hoeven seemed interested but made no commitments.

Mark Watne, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, made the point that federal farm program payments (commodity supports, conservation and federal crop insurance combined) are about .28 percent of the whole federal budget.

"We're getting to the point that we may not be able to write an effective farm program if we cut much more," Watne said.

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He also suggested that now might be a time to push for acceptance of E30 - a blend of 30 percent biofuel ethanol into fuel levels "to use up that massive amount of corn."

3608197+0B6O2b61phok-THhRNkYyemloNEE.jpg
U.S. John Hoeven, R-N.D., right, and North Dakota State Rep. Michael Howe, R-West Fargo, hosted a farm bill roundtable discussion at the Howe family's seed farm business near Casselton on Aug. 22, 2017. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

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