All eyes on House farm bill

As the House Ag Committee prepares for its farm bill markup session on Wednesday, a coalition of 77 groups—including agriculture, conservation, livestock and other organizations—is urging committee leaders to do everything they can to get the farm bill passed before it expires on September 30th.

The coalition states that the farm bill not only helps farmers plan ahead and mitigate risk to survive tough times, it also provides critical investment in rural communities, conserves natural resources like soil and water, and provides food for those less fortunate.

It’s anticipated the committee could do its work on the measure fairly quickly, but beyond that, things are up in the air for the farm bill in the House.  Some Capitol Hill observers say it could be difficult to convince House leaders to schedule floor time for the bill.

Ag Committee member Kristi Noem of South Dakota recently stated an extension of current farm policy may be necessary because of the challenge of getting things done in Washington in an election year.

Meanwhile, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is expressing disappointment that the House Ag Committee’s farm bill draft does nothing to address payment limits for large farms.   In fact, Grassley says, the House plan would actually increase the payment limit from current law.

“Currently, direct payments have a limit of 40-thousand dollars per farmer and the counter-cyclical program has a limit of 65-thousand dollars,” Grassley says.  “Now this House draft bill would have farmers choose between the counter-cyclical program and a revenue program—and would increase the farmer’s cap to 125-thousand dollars, no matter what program is chosen.”

Grassley is also concerned that the proposed counter-cyclical program contained in the House draft could have farmers making decisions based upon farm programs rather than responding to market signals.

“While I’m supportive of making sure our farmers have a safety net, having one that distorts planting decisions takes us in the wrong direction—back to the time prior to Freedom to Farm of 1995 and ’96,” he says.

The House will begin marking up its farm bill version Wednesday at 10 a.m. EST.

AUDIO: Chuck Grassley (3:12 MP3)


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