Peterson to Stabenow: 'There Will Be Target Prices, And They Will Be Based on Planted Acres'

August 14, 2013 02:49 AM
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Peterson talks to Minnesota Ag Leadership Conference

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Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), ranking member on the House Ag Committee, spoke Tuesday at the Minnesota Ag Leadership Conference, leaving no doubt the fate of the new farm bill is murky, but clearly signaling he would seek reelection in 2014.

“We're not giving up” on getting a new farm bill passed,” Peterson said, but he added, “I'm not sure how we get this done” due to food nutrition issues pushed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

As for a coming House-Senate conference, Peterson said he told Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) that “there will be target prices” in the Title I safety net program and “they will be based on planted acres not to exceed base acres.” He noted that some commodity groups are “simply wrong” to press base acres rather than planted acres for any target price payments. “We can't sell that to Congress any more...about paying for acres not planted.”

Peterson said that a farmer safety net should be designed for when prices are low, not high, thus his push for a target price assurance program, as opposed to a shallow loss program favored by the Senate and corn and soybean groups. But Peterson said, “Those groups know that when it comes to the House bill, 90 percent of farmers will opt for the price loss coverage (target price) program. A safety net is needed for bad times, not the good times.” He said the target prices were set at around 80 percent of the cost of production based on what a producer plants, and “that makes sense.”

Of note, Peterson said the coming House-Senate farm bill conference could agree to, “most likely, $6 billion, to no more than $8 billion” in cuts to food stamp funding. That would be well below the $40 billion mark House Republicans are expected to vote on shortly after they return the week of Sept. 9.

Peterson said despite Stabenow's remarks about no further extension of the 2008 Farm Bill, that is a viable option and if so, he would want it to go into 2015. “And if any extension would reduce direct payments, that would be like writing a new farm bill, so that won't be easy to get, has to be a straight extension,” Peterson said.

When I asked if he was categorically seeking reelection in 2014, Peterson said, “I'm out seeking funds and...[the GOP right-wingers] have made me mad.”

Talking about the June 20 defeat on the House floor of the initial farm bill vote, Peterson said, “When Rep. (Bob) Goodlatte's (R-Va.) dairy policy amendment was approved, I lost six Democratic votes on that amendment. And when the food stamp funding amendment by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) was approved and a roll call vote was requested, I lost 12 more Democratic votes I previously had in favor of the bill.” Make no mistake, Peterson said, the Southerland amendment was really Eric Cantor's amendment.

"They (Republicans) blamed me because I couldn't deliver (the votes), but we told them that (food stamp) amendment was a deal-breaker,” Peterson stressed. “We got hijacked by the GOP leadership.”

Importantly, Peterson said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “wants a farm bill completed by Sept. 30,” but “I don't think Cantor wants a bill.” Peterson said it “doesn't appear Boehner and Cantor are on the same page, and that is a problem.”

As for the House GOP leadership splitting the farm bill between farm programs and food stamp funding, Peterson said, “The Wall Street Journal, the Heritage Foundation, and others have been trying to split this farm bill for years because they know if those programs are together, it is hard to get significant changes they want individually for those programs.”

Peterson said he simply does not know the final outcome of the farm bill. The major reason, he said, is over food stamp funding. “Do you think House Republicans will vote for a conference report that reduces food stamp funding only $6 billion to $8 billion when they have debated and possibly could pass a $40 billion cut?” Peterson asked. He predicated eventually around 75 House Republicans, perhaps 100, but more likely 75, would vote for a final conference report.” If so, he said the key will be whether or not Boehner will allow the conference report to be approved with more Democratic than Republican votes. “The Dems will pass this bill,” Peterson said, if allowed to. “But frankly, I just don't see the end game here.” He said Boehner keeps saying, “I'm trying to help you, but that's hard to see.”

Peterson said what is wrong with Washington, in part, is that “Fox News is a tool of the GOP, and MSNBC is a tool of the Democratic Party, and that has helped polarize a lot of issues.” Peterson railed against a recent Fox News special report on food stamps, a program he said “had about 75 percent wrong information.”

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






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