The Farm Bill, which updates government agriculture policy every five years, has passed the House of Representatives. The Senate will soon begin to deliberate on its own version of the Farm Bill.
The House of Representatives deserves huge credit for moving this monumental piece of legislation to help America’s farmers, ranchers and producers. The House Committee on Agriculture especially deserves praise for working on all of the details and putting the bill together in the first place!
This Farm Bill will protect crop insurance and guaranteed loan programs, two initiatives that ensure farmers, ranchers and producers aren’t left high and dry when disaster strikes. And if it does, they will now be well equipped to get back on their feet and keep feeding America and the world.
The House’s version of the Farm Bill, overall, is excellent. But in the middle of the Farm Bill’s nearly 1500 pages lies a proposal, authored by the Farm Credit System (FCS), to repeal a statute that governs the compensation of the members of boards of directors of Farm Credit System (FCS) banks.
That is not ok.
The current statute is reasonable. In plain English, it says that Farm Credit bank directors will receive no more than $20,000 a year in compensation. This amount will be indexed to inflation, and the Farm Credit Administration (FCA) board may waive this limit if exceptional circumstances merit it. This law makes sense: the FCS is a taxpayer-backed institution, and its four banks (CoBank, AgriBank, AgFirst and Farm Credit Bank of Texas) are government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs). No board member should be serving with the expectation that this is a full-time job because it isn’t, by definition. FCS banks’ boards should comprise their own member-customers. And if they are composed of their member-customers, then they should be operating some agricultural enterprise that they’re working on and deriving income from. So it beggars belief that this repeal is anything but a cash grab. And there’s far more that’s wrong with this proposal. Fortunately, the Senate’s Farm Bill does not include it.
The House as a whole and the House Committee on Agriculture deserve our thanks for protecting American agriculture and allowing it to thrive. And despite the troubling language in the Farm Bill on FCS board of director compensation, the Reform Farm Credit team is eager to see the Farm Bill through the Senate. And from there, hopefully, the Senate and House can rework the language and reconcile their bills to make sure that Farm Credit is getting its fair share – no more, no less.