Rep. Peterson Talks Farm Bill Implementation & More

12:00AM Aug 05, 2008
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via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Lawmaker promises farm bill implementation oversight

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The following are highlights made on Monday via satellite and telephone hookup by House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) to the 25th International Sweetener Symposium on the Big Island of Hawaii:

Farm bill implementation: Peterson said USDA Secretary Ed Schafer has pledged to implement the farm bill the way Congress wrote it and that there will be "no politics" involved, "but we will monitor."

Energy legislation: Peterson revealed he may combine his energy speculation bill with a major energy supply and conservation bill (HR 6709) being pushed by Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), who gave a spirited breakfast address to the gathering in support of the energy legislation.

Meeting with farm groups regarding food/fuel dispute: Peterson revealed that on Monday evening he was scheduled to meet with officials from the corn, soybean, Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union, ethanol and livestock industry "to see how we all can get on the same page" regarding food and renewable fuel issues. "Part of the reason why we are meeting tonight (Monday evening)," Peterson added, "is because it is not good to fight among ourselves." He pointed to widely reported efforts by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) to alter the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).

Doha Round: "I think it will be 1-1/2 to 2 years before Doha gets going again," Peterson said, adding that "this is probably a good thing" for sugar growers.

Crop insurance: Asked if he would pursue crop insurance reform next year, Peterson said the new farm bill includes an accelerated SRA (Standard Reinsurance Agreement) by the end of next year and "we will see how that progresses. We need to look at the disparity between crop losses and coverage, and we need to better target the cuts in administrative and operating expenses. We also need to get adequate coverage for some crops, but all this depends on the new incoming administration."

Immigration reform: Peterson acknowledged immigration reform is needed and is "very important" for the agribusiness sector but he admitted the topic is "so political." He recalled there was even discussion of putting some immigration reform language in the 2008 Farm Bill "but it couldn't get any place," again noting that this is a "very difficult issue that is very much politicized."

Ag economy: Peterson said he was concerned that the recent commodity price downturn has the "potential of developing into another farm crisis." He pointed to US farmland price escalation and input costs as negative to the ag industry. "I am concerned about all this and if it goes too far, we have the makings of another problem."

Secretary of Agriculture prediction under any Obama administration: Peterson quickly noted that "It's not going to be me," and then noted one possibility is current National Farmers Union President Tom Buis, "someone who I talked with around five times daily during the writing of the new farm bill."

Comments:I am currently attending this meeting in Hawaii and found Peteron's comments rather interesting on a number of fronts.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.