Key Democrat Enlists Vilsack's Help on Farm Bill Strategy

September 12, 2013 01:16 AM
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Peterson tells Vilsack to begin process of implementing 1949-era dairy policy that would lead to surge in milk price | Boehner tells group 'a new farm bill will be completed by the end of this September'

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

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), ranking member of the House Ag Committee, said he called USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack this week suggesting that the agency begin the process of implementing the 1949-era dairy policies that would take effect if Congress fails to act on a farm bill.

"Clearly this is not going to get done by the 1st of October, so my suggestion to the secretary is that they should start now putting the framework together to implement the permanent law on dairy Jan. 1," Peterson said. "And it sounds to me like they're going to take a very serious look at that."

The 1949 law requires USDA to support the dairy market in such a way that milk is priced at a floor of roughly $39 per 100 pounds – a figure that would lead milk prices to roughly double at today's rates.

Peterson said his strategy will not be liked by some dairy groups, especially the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). "IDFA is really going to hate this," Peterson said. "And once Vilsack's calling them and setting up the mechanism to get $39 milk, IDFA's going to call [House Speaker John) Boehner (R-Ohio). So, it might actually work."

Peterson said his strategy is supported by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), which means it is mostly political posturing. Add in Vilsack and it ups the political games being played.

Still, Peterson believes his “milk strategy” can force a new farm bill deal. "The first thing that happens of any consequence is Jan. 1 on dairy. So if he [Vilsack] starts the process [Oct. 1] then we can be ready to have $39 milk Jan. 1," he said. "And then I think, within two or three weeks, we'll probably have a farm bill. We're not getting any place with what we're doing," Peterson added. "There's no reason to not have this done."

Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said that Vilsack should start to prepare for the milk spike.

Lucas said leaders have not yet started whipping the food stamp cutting bill they plan to bring to the floor next week. He said even if House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) cannot get 217 votes for the measure cutting $40 billion, a farm bill conference committee would proceed.

Comments: Of note is what Rep. Boehner this week told a group of visitors who asked him about the farm bill. “We'll have a farm bill by the end of this September,” he told the gathering. And, Boehner stressed it would not have the dairy supply management language backed by Rep. Peterson.

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






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