Summary of 1979 Federal agricultural legislation ( Agricultural policy memo no. 8 )
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REPLY TO 1117 McCarty Hall
Food and Resource Economics
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611

January 16, 1980

Agricultural Policy Memo No. 8

TO: County Extension Directors and Staff

FROM: C.D. Covey, Extension Economist, Policy

SUBJECT: Summary of 1979 Federal Agricultural Legislation.

The following is a summary of 1979 federal legislation dealing with
agriculture and related issues of interest to Floridians.

1. Milk Support (H.R. 4167):

Congress passed and President Carter signed into law a bill extending
for two additional years an 80 percent of parity floor under milk supports.
The new law will remain in effect until September 30, 1981, which means
the next extension will be considered as part of the general reauthorization
of major commodity programs due for Congressional action in 1981.

2. Food Stamps (H.R. 4057):

Congress passed and the President signed into law a bill which
restored cuts in food stamp benefits for households containing elderly,
blind and disabled persons with high medical and shelter costs, averted a
potential cut in benefits for all stamp recipients last September, and
adopted several new regulations aimed at reducing abuse of the program.

3. Peanuts

The President signed into law a bill authorizing the Department of
Agriculture to reduce or waive marketing quota penalties for several hundred
peanut farmers and handlers who exceeded 1978 quotas because of unintentional
errors following adoption of major changes in the peanut program.

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Agricultural Policy Memo No. 8
Page Two
January 16, 1980

Congress considered a number of agricultural related issues during
1979 which are still in process and may be completed in 1980. The following
is a summary of the federal agricultural issues in process by the Congress.

1. Grain:

The House passed an Agriculture Committee bill (H.R. 3398) raising
1979 grain target prices by 7 percent, but a later Senate version of the bill
applied the increase instead to 1980 crops. A House-Senate Conference will
draft a final version early in the new year and is expected to include the
Senate's 1980 provision plus another Senate section continuing the new floor
into 1981 and authorizing further increases in that year if farm costs
continue to rise. The pending legislation also authorizes the Secretary
of Agriculture to require farmers who want farm program benefits for any
target price crops in 1980 and 1981 -- including grains, cotton and rice --
to comply with Normal Crop Acreage limits on their farms. If the Secretary
imposes a NCA requirement for any crops in 1980 and/or 1981, he would also
have authority for disaster payments to producers of grains, cotton and rice
in 1980 (an issue the House had dealt with in other pending legislation),
but with a $50,000 per producer limit on those payments.

2. Meat Imports:

Both Houses passed and sent to the White House in late 1979 a bill
(H.R. 2727) to create a counter-cyclical beef import control system. This
new law provides for tightening restrictions on beef imports in years when
domestic production is high, and for expanding imports during periods when
American production is low.

3. Farm Credit:

Shortly before the 1979 session adjourned, a House-Senate Conference
Committee reached agreement on legislation (S. 985) setting lending ceilings
for the Farmers Home Administration in the 1980, 1981 and 1982 fiscal years
and also placing limits on the amount the agency can lend to big farmers
under its disaster emergency program. For regular FmHA loans including
farm operating and mortgage credit and rural development credit, the legislation
sets a $5.185 billion annual ceiling compared with $3.933 billion in fiscal
1979. For disaster emergency loans, following disclosure that a few big
farmers had obtained loans of up to $17 million, the legislation imposed a
$2 million per farm ceiling which will be phased down to $500,000 beginning
in fiscal 1983. Final Congressional approval of the biFll is expected early
in the 1980 session.

4. Gasohol:

The House Agriculture Committee, after including provisions designed to
encourage gasohol production as amendments to several bills earlier in 1979,
last fall adopted legislation (H.R. 3905) authorizing $800 million in federal

Agricultural Policy Memo No. 8
Page Three
January 16, 1980

loans and loan guarantees to stimulate production of alcohol from farm and
forest products and waste residues. Before that bill could be considered
on the House floor, however, both the House and Senate passed general energy
bills including major gasohol sections. House and Senate conferees have
begun work on a final version of the general energy legislation and a compromise
bill -- including gasohol provisions -- is expected to emerge in early 1980.

5. Pesticide Control:

Congress granted funds during 1979 for an additional year of operation,
through Sept. 30, 1980, of the pesticide control programs handled by the
Environmental Protection Agency. The House and Senate also passed separate
authorizing legislation for the year, but conferees from the two bodies failed
to reach agreement on details of that legislation. A new bill dealing with
authorization for programs beginning Oct. 1, 1980, will be considered later.

6. Crop Insurance:

This bill (H.R. 4119), approved by the House Agriculture Committee in
1979, is expected to reach the House floor in 1980. It would authorize an
expanded and eventually nationwide program of federal crop insurance beginning
with the 1981 crop year and built around a plan under which the government
would pay part of the farmer's premium on each policy. The bill also would
extend through 1981 the existing program of disaster payments for grain,
cotton and rice producers in any county in which the new insurance program
was not offered in that year and, in some special situations, disaster payments
would be available as an alternative form of aid even where crop insurance
was offered. Floor amendments are expected to be offered to confirm that
the private insurance industry will have full opportunity to participate in
selling crop insurance and that there would not be unfair government competition
with the industry. A similar bill has already passed the Senate.

7. Conservation:

Pending before the House Agriculture Committee and due for early 1980
action is a bill (H.R. 3789) to extend the Great Plains Conservation Program
through Sept. 30, 1987. The program offers federal cost-sharing aid to farmers
and ranchers who follow long-term conservation plans. This is expected to
be followed by consideration of a proposal to create a similar program for
counties outside the Plains which are subject to serious wind and/or water
erosion and a proposal under which farmers could get conservation loans of
up to $25,000.

8. Sugar:

The House last fall defeated legislation which would have established
a federal support program for the 1979, 1980 and 1981 sugar crops. In the
wake of that action, the House Ways & Means Committee approved legislation
(H.R. 6029) which would permit U.S. participation in the already existing
International Sugar Agreement program designed to help stabilize world prices.
Further action on the ISA legislation is expected in 1980.

Agricultural Policy Memo No. 8
Page Four
January 16, 1980

9. Farmland Preservation:

Approved by the House Agriculture Committee in 1979 and awaiting
House floor action is a bill (H.R. 2551) which would authorize federal action
to support State and local governments in efforts they may take to reduce
the conversion of agricultural land to nonfarm uses. The bill emphasizes
that nothing in the proposed legislation would in any way establish federal
authority over the land use decisions which have historically rested in
State and local agencies. Under the legislation, however, the Agriuclture
Department would assist states by making a study of issues involved in
conversion of land, and by offering up to $60.5 million over four years in
grants to states and localities which may want to develop and test methods
of reducing farmland conversion. None of the grant money could be used in
any program for governmental acquisition of any interest in land.

10. Forestry and Roadless Area Review:

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Foley introduced in December a
bill (H.R. 6070), due for consideration in 1980, designed to resolve controversy
over the management of roadless and undeveloped National Forest lands which
are not included in the National Wilderness Preservation System. The bill
would ensure that more than 36 million acres of land which a government review
found should be excluded from Wilderness treatment will continue in non-
Wilderness use unless Congress later takes contrary action. Also, the
legislation would set deadlines for Congressional action on lands already
recommended by the Administration for Wilderness protection and for Administration
proposals on lands which are still being studied. Also in December, the
House Agriculture Committee approved a new forestry loan bill (H.R. 4718)
authorizing a pilot program of federally insured and guaranteed loans for
non-industrial owners of 500 acres or less of private forest land who agree
to follow approved forest management plans.

11. Cotton:

Congress completed action in late 1979 on legislation (H.R. 5223) revising
the government's support program for extra-long staple cotton. The bill,
drafted with the support of producers, lowers the minimum government support
guarantee and permits an increase in crop support loan rates. These changes
are expected to avoid the need for direct federal support payments to ELS

12. Rural Development:

Approved by the House Agriculture Committee and awaiting House con-
sideration in 1980 is a bill designed to strenghten the operation of rural
development programs (H.R. 3580) by giving formal legal status to an existing
federal coordinating group. The legislation also would require the administration
to draft a comprehensive rural development policy based on priorities indicated
by local people and governments, and it would further raise the authorization
for rural development planning grants from the current $10 million annually
to $20 million. Another section of the bill would require expanded research
on technology for small and medium-sized farms.

Agricultural Policy Memo No. 8
Page Five
January 16, 1980

13. Carryover Basis:

Final action is expected in 1980 on a proposal, pending in a
House-Senate Conference on windfall profit taxes, which would repeal an
existing law designed to raise taxes on property sold by heirs. Many farm
groups have urged repeal of the so-called "carryover basis" plan for taxing
inherited property.

14. Tobacco:

No new legislation was produced in 1979 by the Agriculture Committee's
Tobacco Subcommittee. The subcommittee concentrated, instead, on oversight
activities including hearings which led Administration officials to drop a
plan to lengthen the existing four-day week for tobacco auctions, and an
examination of low prices paid earlier this year on some flue-cured markets.

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