Still Waiting on a Farm Bill Plan…


by Chris Clayton, DTN Ag Policy Editor

The following article was published on Tuesday, November 1

OMAHA (DTN) — Leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees won’t make their self-imposed deadline for releasing a farm-bill proposal today, a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee said Tuesday.

Regional and crop differences are coming into play as lawmakers study several different proposals for trying to reshape the commodity programs, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters in a conference call.

The four principal leaders on the ag committees are still negotiating on different farm-bill plans that would demonstrate a 10-year budget savings of $23 billion. The agricultural leaders had stated they would come up with a farm bill by Nov. 1 to submit to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the super committee. The super committee has a Nov. 23 deadline to deliver a $1.5 trillion budget-cutting plan to the entire Congress.

Grassley said there was no farm-bill proposal to review, and added that it could take longer than a few days to hash out the differences between proposals.

“There isn’t such a draft put together at this point,” Grassley said. “They aren’t going to meet the Nov. 1 deadline, but that doesn’t mean that maybe between now and Nov. 23, when the committee has to report to the Congress, that they (ag committee leaders) can’t maybe work with the members to get it done, and I’m sure that’s their hope.”

The four main leaders working on this draft are House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and their respective committee ranking members, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

There are disagreements over whether to develop a farm-bill program to cover “shallow losses” not covered by crop insurance, or continue to have a commodity program that isn’t tied to crop insurance and would pay for deeper price support.

“There is still some feeling I think in rice that you ought to have direct payments and I believe that those are the main disagreements on the safety net,” he said.

Other groups and regions are weighing in heavily. California farm interests, for instance, argue the rush of the debate hasn’t given enough weight to their issues with conservation and specialty crop programs, as well as investments in nutritional spending.

Grassley said he hasn’t heard from a lot of individual farmers about program changes, but several commodity groups have weighed in. Some commodity groups are not taking a position on some of the changes.

Environmental and conservation groups are pushing that language be included in a farm bill that would tie conservation compliance to crop insurance. Grassley said he hasn’t been part of any official discussions on that issue.

He added also he doesn’t think nutritional programs are taking proportional cuts in the budget savings. Commodity programs, for instance, are projected to take $15 billion in cuts but nutrition programs might take a $4 billion cut over 10 years, even though nutritional programs account for 70{fe867fa2be02a5a45e8bbb747b653fe2e9d0331fd056b85cd0c1a3542435a96e} of USDA’s spending.

Grassley has sent a letter with different proposals for tightening payment caps to larger farmers. He has long advocated a $250,000 cap for married couples, but he also has proposed language “that will set meaningful payment limitations on whatever type of commodity program is in that final package” from the super committee. His plan would keep an individual $75,000 cap on marketing loans, and $50,000 cap for all other payments under the commodity title. Grassley said a tighter, effective limit would protect the entire safety net by weeding out farmers with the highest incomes.

“I hope that people realize that there’s a lot of sentiment out there” that we shouldn’t even have a farm safety net, Grassley said. “And part of it comes from the fact that people who don’t need the massive amount of help they are getting from the safety net are bad public relations for the average small-and medium-sized farmer.”

DTN’s Washington Insider noted Tuesday that “five prominent anti-tax organizations, including Americans for Tax Reform headed by Grover Norquist, are calling on the super committee to ‘eliminate wasteful agricultural subsidies’ when the committee issues its recommendations to reduce the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.”


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Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp


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