Work on the 2018 Farm Bill picked up steam in August as staff from the House and Senate Agriculture Committees met several times to begin reconciling differences between their respective bills. Also, Senate Agriculture Chairman Roberts (R-KS), Ranking Member Stabenow (D-MI), House Agriculture Chairman Conaway (R-TX) and Ranking Member Peterson (D-MN) met for several hours last week, with Roberts noting afterwards that “real progress was made,” and expressed the intent to have a draft conference report ready to review during the first formal meeting of the conferees, scheduled for Sept. 5. The current farm bill – the Agricultural Act of 2014 – expires on Sept. 30.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced details of assistance to help farmers mitigate agricultural price declines because of the ongoing trade war between China and the United States. Initial payments totaling $4.7 billion in direct aid through a Market Facilitation Program will be paid to producers of products and crops that had retaliatory tariffs placed on them, including cotton, corn, dairy, pork, soybeans, sorghum and wheat. U.S. canola has not been targeted by retaliatory tariffs, but prices for canola have fallen in tandem with soybean prices. Dr. Frayne Olson of North Dakota State University determined an 88 percent correlation between soybean and canola prices over the last 10 years (see chart below). Requests by the U.S. Canola Association (USCA) and the Northern Canola Growers Association (NCGA) that canola be included in the Market Facilitation Program were not granted.
The NCGA requested of the North Dakota delegation that canola be included as an eligible commodity under the proposed $12 billion aid package announced by the USDA. While canola has not had a tariff imposed upon it, canola growers are still suffering the same drop in revenue and inclusion of canola would be equitable for growers. In addition, the NCGA provided input to USDA Undersecretary Steve Censky and Representative Kevin Cramer at a town hall meeting on Aug. 23 in Fargo, N.D.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its proposal for 2019 RFS Volumes and Biomass-Based Diesel volumes for 2020. The USCA expressed appreciation that the EPA calls for growth to 2.43 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel for 2020 and 4.88 billion gallons of total advanced biofuels for 2019, while also urging the agency to further increase these volumes to reflect the available capacity and ample feedstock. The existing RFS volumes for biomass-based diesel for 2019 are 2.1 billion gallons and advanced biofuels for 2018 are set at 4.29, so the EPA proposed rule represents modest increases in both categories.
A bipartisan group of 39 senators also signed a letter to the EPA in support of higher advanced biofuel and biomass-based diesel volumes for 2019 and 2020. Senator Murray (D-WA) was one of the leaders on the letter and senators from canola-producing states included Heitkamp (D-ND), Hoeven (R-ND), Cantwell (D-WA), Roberts (R-KS), Moran (R-KS), Klobuchar (D-MN), Smith (D-MN), Wyden (D-OR) and Merkley (D-OR).
The NCGA was determined to be eligible for potential co-funding of research via the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA’s) commodity board provision. Under the NCGA, the USCA submitted a nutrition research topic for NIFA’s consideration.