A roundtable discussion with Representative Feenstra.
On May 2, U.S. Representative Randy Feenstra greeted the CFE leadership team at the Ocheyedan office. Representative Feenstra shared what he is hearing around his district, along with conversations currently happening in Washington D.C. This meeting also gave CFE the opportunity to express any concerns or questions on behalf of the cooperative and our patrons.
Young Farmer Incentives
In the next five to ten years, a major shift is anticipated across the country in transitioning the farm from one generation to the next. The discussion came up about what conversations are happening in D.C. regarding helping young farmers make this transition and continue to grow their families’ legacies, especially with input prices on the rise. Cost of farming in general makes it very challenging for young farmers to be competitive when purchasing land. Feenstra shared that July 2022’s purchase of American farmland in North Dakota to China was certainly a wake-up call in Washington D.C., and discussions started around national and food security, and how legislation can do a better job of supporting farmers, specifically the next generation. Feenstra stated, “American farmland should be owned and farmed by the American farmer.”
Since, there have been many conversations about tax incentives, interest on loans, incentives for first-time land buyers, tax structure and more. Congress knows this is important and wants to find ways to help young farmers in taking over the farm and continue to be successful.
This topic sparked a conversation around sharing your story. Feenstra shared that many policymakers don’t have any idea about agriculture or even how to define a family farm. He said farmers and those in agriculture are constantly on the move, and often juggling a lot at once. Although there is much to get done in a day, remember that sharing your day-to-day could help provide a window into an industry that some do not have the pleasure of working in and experiencing.
Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS)
For most producers, WOTUS is a memory from a previous administration that has now been resurrected. At the beginning of 2023, the current administration said they wanted to re-look at WOTUS due to the Supreme Court case of Sackett versus the EPA – a land development conflict which resulted in confusion and clarification about the Clean Water Act including WOTUS. Feenstra noted that he is concerned about “significant and worrisome” rule changes. The Representative and others are putting pressure on Congress to add clarity to the term “navigable waters” for regulations and policies to help farmers navigate what WOTUS means for them in the future.
Feenstra noted that with this administration, pressure for additional trade is lacking. Feenstra has seen a push from Midwestern public officials for the administration to connect with the Midwest constituents, especially our high trade industries, as this is an area Congress feels the administration has not engaged with.
Feenstra was happy to report on a positive update regarding E-15 for the summer months. Originally the EPA was set to close E-15 sales on June 1 but waived with the approval of President Biden to keep sales open to help alleviate high gas pump prices. These biofuel pushes are a huge economic engine for Iowa, as there are currently 42 ethanol plants and 12 biofuel plants in the state. These plants support around 57,000 jobs and account for around $7.2 billion in Iowa’s Gross Domestic Product – and rising.
Feenstra expressed his concern about the challenges producers face to keep foreign diseases out of our country, like the highly intrusive African Swine Fever. Federal dollars are limited for disease prevention both within the United States and on the borders due to a lack of support and funding from the administration. This is a focus for the U.S. Ag Committee as they continue to voice livestock producers’ concerns to Congress, and Feenstra is hoping for movement in a positive direction in the months to come.
2023 Farm Bill
Many of these topics and conversations connect to the farm bill, but Feenstra did not hesitate to provide a more specific, yet brief, update on the legislation in progress.
Despite being called the farm bill, the majority of the bill consists of regulations regarding food assistance rather than farming practices and initiatives.
Feenstra shared that SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) will be a hot topic with inflation and many Americans participating in this program.
Conservation will also be a focus. The Ag Committee wants to keep conservation programs as volunteer driven as possible. Carbon’s place in the conservation conversation adds more complexity to the bill. Feenstra briefly mentioned how he would like to see a look-back period where farmers are compensated for the conservation practices fulfilled from their pasts and not just the strategies in action today.
Although Feenstra does not anticipate a lot of changes from the 2018 farm bill, he does see changes coming with FMA and creating a stronger export market as well as in livestock protection.
We appreciate the time Representative Feenstra spent with our team at CFE sharing his insights and updates from Capitol Hill. As your operation partner, we do not take lightly the role in advocating for your families and farms. We will continue to keep you updated as the farm bill progresses through the summer months.