Senator Reverend Warnock Releases Comprehensive Package to Empower Row Crop Farmers, Pushes Senate Leadership to Raise Reference Prices

This week, Senator Reverend Warnock took a series of actions to champion southern commodities, especially cotton and peanuts, in this year’s Farm Bill reauthorization 

The Senator introduced the Southern CROPS Act, a comprehensive package of legislation to provide Georgia row crop farmers additional financial security to help farmers get ahead and remain on their land

The three-part legislative package will allow eligible producers to access base acres, improve the marketing assistance loan program, and support cotton farmers and textile mills

Separately, the Senator pushed Chair Stabenow to raise reference prices for Southeastern Commodities higher than the proposed increases in the Senate Democrat’s Farm Bill framework

Senator Reverend Warnock is the only Southeastern Democrat on the Senate Agriculture committee

Senator Reverend Warnock: As we continue to negotiate the Farm Bill, I’ll keep the needs of commodity farmers front and center, including pushing to raise reference prices along with making USDA programs work better and become more accessible

ICYMI from Agripulse: “Senate Democrat wants to ‘bridge’ the farm bill’s urban-rural divide”

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) took major steps to champion southern commodities as a member of the Senate Agriculture committee. This week, the Senator formally introduced the Southern Commodities, Rates, Opportunities, Production, and Support (Southern CROPS) Act, comprehensive legislation to support row crop farmers in every corner of the state. The legislative package includes three provisions to support farmers’ razer-thin profit margins and help ensure Georgia farmers can continue to play a critical role in Georgia’s economy. The legislation will increase farmers’ access to base acres, improve the marketing assistance loan program, and give much-needed relief to cotton mills and Georgia cotton farmers. The entirety of the Southern CROPS Act was included in the Senate Democrat’s Farm Bill framework.

Separately, Senator Warnock pushed Chair Stabenow to raise reference prices for Southeastern commodities higher than the proposed increases in the Senate Democrat’s Farm Bill framework. The letter, exclusively reported in Agri-Pulse, unapologetically called the Senate Democrats’ proposed 5% reference price increase “not enough to ensure Georgia farmers can stay on their land, provide good-paying jobs for our state, and continue to harvest nutritious food for Georgia families.” Read the full letter HERE.

“As the only Southeastern Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, I’ve prioritized fighting for Georgia row crop farmers in this year’s Farm Bill,” said Senator Reverend Warnock.“That’s why I was proud to secure my Southern CROPS Actin Chair Stabenow’s Farm Bill framework. As we continue to negotiate the Farm Bill, I’ll keep the needs of commodity farmers front and center, including pushing to raise reference prices along with making USDA programs work better and become more accessible.” 

Row crops are a major economic driver in Georgia. According to the University of Georgia, row and forage crops contribute $14.9 billion and 60,700 jobs to Georgia in 2022. Additionally, over half of the country’s peanuts come from Georgia, and Georgia produces the 2nd most cotton nationally.

Senator Warnock has championed southern commodities since coming to the Senate. In his first year in office, the Senator partnered with Senator Tuberville to address nontariff trade barriers from the European Union (E.U.) impacting the U.S. peanut sector and hampering access to the international market. The following year, Senator Warnock secured a directive in the draft Senate government funding bill directing the federal government to address existing, restrictive trade barriers Georgia peanut farmers are facing when trying to do business with markets in the EU. The Senator has lead a bipartisan effort calling for the bolstering of safety net programs for southern commodities. Last year, the Senator uplifted the importance of commodity safety net programs at an Agriculture hearing.

More information on the Southern CROPS Act below. Bill text available HERE and section by section available HERE.

Section A: Base Acres Reallocation 

This bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture to provide underserved producers of covered commodities with a one-time opportunity to establish or increase base acres if they meet certain criteria. To qualify for the reallocation, their recent planting history would need to exceed the total number of base acres currently on their farm. 

The provision would allow underserved producers who either own or rent their farmland to be allocated up to 160 base acres, which will reflect the proportional acreage of planted covered commodities for the 2018-2022 crop years. If an underserved producer is no longer the owner or operator of the farm during the 2025 through 2029 crop years, the additional base acres added under this provision would be revoked. 

This one-time reallocation will help underserved producers (including beginning, veteran, socially disadvantaged, limited resource, and economically distressed) obtain more base acres. Further, this reallocation will help address the increasing average age of farmers.

Section B: New Loan Rate for Marketing Assistance Loan Program 

This provision requires the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a new loan rate for the Marketing Assistance Loan (MAL) program beginning with the 2025 crop year. This new loan rate will be calculated using a cost of production adjustment to ensure that MAL loan rates are increased if the “forecasted input costs” are above average for a given crop year. This section defines forecasted input costs as the cost of interest, labor, property taxes, seed, fertilizer, fuel, oil, electricity, pesticides, and net rent to landowners.  

USDA’s Economic Research Service will forecast the cost of production for each crop year. If the cost of production is greater than the most recent 5-year average of the cost of production, then USDA must increase all marketing assistance loan rates by the same percentage as the increased cost of production. However, USDA can only increase the MAL loan rates by up to 110% of the MAL loan rates set in the Farm Bill. 

If this provision had been in place in the 2018 Farm Bill, producers would have gotten a 10% increase in their MAL loans in 2022, 2023, and 2024, meaning this provision will likely be successful at aligning MAL loan rates with rising costs of production.

Section C: Economic Adjustment Assistance for Textile Mills (EAATM) Program 

This provision would increase the EAATM payment rate from $0.03 per pound of cotton used back to $0.04 per pound of cotton used. This rate increase will help encourage more domestic options for farmers to sell cotton for production, therefore supporting American jobs and rural communities.