Did the Farm Bill Conference Committee Make Any Progress?
Nov 01, 2013
Pro Farmer Extra
- From the Editors of Pro Farmer newsletter -
November 1, 2013
Note: The following is from this week's issue of Pro Farmer newsletter and was written by Pro Farmer associate editor Meghan Pedersen and Pro Farmer Washington Consultant Jim Wiesemeyer.
Farm bill linkage with budget package
Conferees noted the possibility that farm bill savings might be tapped in a larger budget deal worked out by budget negotiators, but farm bill conferees insisted they would decide the fate of the farm bill details. House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said the budget committee could count whatever savings the farm bill achieves — after the fact, but again noted that “you can’t have our money unless you take our policy.” Lucas said that he is now “comfortable” that the budget conference will not interfere with the farm bill process.
Conservation compliance tied with crop insurance
Another contentious issue is that several conferees, including Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), support linking conservation compliance to crop insurance, a development many House negotiators strongly oppose. She also called on lawmakers to save grasslands by enacting a national sod-buster provision that is in the Senate bill. Lucas said he is not in favor of more regulatory burdens.
Key lawmaker blasts some farm group lobbyists
Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) defended the House bill’s Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program that ties payments to planted acres up to base acres. Conaway said, “Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about planting distortions... We are this far in the farm bill process despite the groups who are recklessly obsessed with this issue. We have had to do all the heavy lifting in fighting off harmful policies against their farmers, like AGI [adusted gross income limits] and conservation compliance on crop insurance, while they have spent their time on other endeavors. They ought to know that no one at this table is talking about going back to pre-1996 when farmers had to plant for the farm bill. They also ought to know that the House and Senate Farm Bills both use planted acres while capping them at different levels. By now, they should also be aware that the approach used by the House is the same approach used under the current ACRE program.”
But Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said the PLC target prices would be set so high they would “practically guarantee” farm profits, a conclusion not supported by university research cited by other farm bill conferees.
Conaway said it would change 0.1% of planted acreage. But Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said, “Tying target prices to planted acres runs the risk of ruining decades of reform.” And Roberts said, “a modern farm bill should not create planting, marketing or international trade distortions... target prices should be decoupled... and the government should not set prices at a level that practically guarantees profit, instead of acting as a risk-management tool.”
What it takes to reach the farm bill endzone
Stabenow indicated some of the conferees may meet or otherwise stay in touch during the House recess, which will last until Nov. 12.
The key to any conclusion will be leadership and the willingness of stakeholders, including political leaders in both parties, to make decisions and give a little ground to get them.
Follow Pro Farmer Editor Chip Flory on Twitter: @ChipFlory
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