Amid continuing budget concerns and a need to not be caught flat-footed when Congress again takes up a new farm bill, the American Soybean Association has shifted positions on what the new legislation should contain.  

The ASA proposes moving away from the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program it supported in 2012. In ARC’s place, the group would update the Counter-Cyclical Program (CCP) while continuing to support the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO).

The ASA proposal would also allow producers to choose “higher options” for the two programs, “recognizing that producers in different growing regions have different priorities for protecting farm income,” according to the group.

According to a statement, the ASA would also “set target prices under the CCP at levels that reflect an average of recent market prices. Payments under the CCP are based on the underlying crop acreage bases on a farm rather than on current-year plantings. This is important in the event prices for commodities fall below their target prices, which would otherwise become a factor in planting decisions and could distort production. ASA’s support for a price-based program is contingent on decoupling program payments from current year production to avoid planting distortions.”

ASA continues to support extending the Marketing Loan Program, eliminating the ACRE program, reducing or eliminating direct payments, and the Senate version of the cotton STAX program.

The ASA proposal comes shortly after the latest Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scores of farm bills offered by the Senate and House last year. The CBO found the bills would cost taxpayers “an additional $8 to $10 billion” over original estimates.

Reached on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning (March 13), where ASA leaders have been rolling out the proposal to lawmakers and staff, ASA president Danny Murphy says the CBO score, “didn’t surprise us. We expected there’d likely be continued budget pressure since the first of the year. We knew there would be continued demands on agriculture to make additional budget savings.”

Murphy, a Mississippi farmer, said the group has been searching for a way to come to a consensus with other commodity groups. “Obviously, there are core principles -- planting flexibility and risk management through crop insurance – that still need to be in the mix.

“As the ASA Farm Bill Task Force worked on the possibilities, eventually the ideas gelled over the last few weeks. It was decided to make a change in our policy – and that was an easier decision once the CBO score showed the ARC coverage was several billions of dollars than was originally projected. It would almost be cost-prohibitive to go with ARC and it reaffirmed the need to come to another solution.”

The ASA proposal, Murphy hopes, “gives the opportunity for some of the Southern crops that favor target price programs to maintain that and provide them what they need. Plus, the SCO (Supplemental Coverage Option) would provide growers the risk management that they feel is so important.

“This bill could be used to accommodate all crops and provide what they need.”

How has the proposal been accepted on Capitol Hill?

“The response has been really good from most of the folks we met with. They felt the ASA had made a step forward and provided an opportunity for ag groups to come together.

“Our big concern is on planted acres – whether the program is on planted acres or decoupled. We really think it needs to be decoupled so things are market-based and you don’t drive plantings based on a government program.”