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Senators working on ag items

Senators working on ag items

A brief update on what ag files the senate has on its plate

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

If U.S. farmers haven’t been keeping up with the ag-related items lawmakers in Washington have been working on, here’s a brief update.

On July 14, a group of bipartisan senators sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack asking he investigate issues surrounding the implementation of the Emergency Relief Program.

“We write to bring to your attention issues that have come up with ERP implementation and to request that USDA address these issues expeditiously,” the letter says.

The program is designed to help farmers offset the impacts of natural disasters in 2020 and 2021.

The senators, which include Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) identified multiple issues with the program:

  • Farmers who attributed losses to a 2019 event have Prevented Plant indemnities not captured by the ERP to receive top up payments.
  • Producers who purchased additional crop insurance are waiting until the fall to receive ERP assistance while some farmers who opted not to buy additional insurance have already received assistance.
  • Sales of farm equipment should be considered part of farm adjusted gross income in order to meet the 75 percent rule (which states 75 percent of adjusted gross income must come from farming or ranching).

At least one senator is urging his colleagues to pass legislation to help with farm workforce challenges.

On July 12, Sen. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), called on fellow senators to pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.

Newhouse’s bill passed in the House on March 18, 2021, by a vote of 247-174.

It would help foreign farm workers earn legal status through continued ag employment, would make the H2A program more flexible and establish a mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for all ag employment.

“Together we can reform our broken immigration laws and ensure that those who wish to pursue a legal pathway or come to our country to contribute to our agriculture industry are able to do so,” Newhouse said on July 12.

“Together we can protect our communities, strengthen our national security, and secure our southern border, but also recognize the contributions of immigrants and bolster our local economies, producers, and small businesses.

“Together we can secure our food supply and ensure American families can afford the groceries they need.”

One unfinished piece of senate business is the confirmation hearing for Doug McKalip.

President Biden announced McKalip as the chief ag negotiator nominee in June.

His hearing is not scheduled for the week of July 18 – 22.

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