Senator Joni Ernst.

Senator Joni Ernst is among the 56 members of the U.S. House and Senate who met this morning to open negotiations aimed at producing a final version of the 2018 Farm Bill.

“With the livelihood of farmers and ranchers largely dependent on factors out of their control, completion of this Farm Bill is a must-do and a must-pass,” Ernst said.

Ernst used her opening remarks to emphasize maintaining federal crop insurance.

“A Farm Bill can’t walk beans, a Farm Bill can’t change the forecast and a Farm Bill can’t restore lost market access,” Ernst said,”but what is can do is provide our farmers with the tools to navigate this stretch of declining farm income, low commodity prices and a very turbulent trade climate.”

Ernst is the only Iowan on the panel hammering out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill.

Ernst indicated one priority for her is ensuring land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve program is “environmentally sensitive” rather than productive land for row crops or livestock pastures. She also supports lower federal rental payments for land that is enrolled in the Conservation Reserve “to help beginning farmers access farmland.” Advocates of lowering federal Conservation Reserve Program payments say it will discourage older farmers from using the program to essentially retire from raising livestock or planting and harvesting row crops — and those farmers will, instead, get more income from renting their land to younger farmers.