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Disagreements on payment limits surface at Farm Bureau conference

Agriculture.com Staff 01/09/2007 @ 8:03am

Salt Lake City, Utah -- Represenative Collin Peterson (D-MN), the new chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, told reporters at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting here Monday that he has met with Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa to discuss stronger payment limitations in the next farm bill. But Peterson apparently doesn't share their support.

Stricter payment limits might threaten the existence of cotton and rice production in the U.S., he said.

"I don't see how we can get a bill unless the Southerners are happy with it, " he said.

Later, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns also addressed the issue when he spoke to Farm Bureau delagates. Johanns acknowledged that he, too, has heard criticism of the three-entity rule and other ways producers can stretch or circumvent limits on farm program payments.

As the USDA puts together its own proposals for the next farm bill, "we're looking at better ways to set up these systems to see that they'll be more equitable."

He stopped short of saying that the Bush administration still favors a firm $250,000 cap on commodity payments, as proposed in the federal budget last year. When asked at a press conference if the administration will propose something like that again, he declined to elaborate. Johanns said that he's aware of concern about the issue among members of both parties of Congress.

He told reporters it will be about a month before the Bush Administration makes its own farm bill proposals public.

To Farm Bureau delagates, though, he suggested that the Administration wants to spend more on energy, rural development and research.

Johanns also said he wants to help farmers reach their own goals of getting good prices through the marketplace without depending as much on government subsidies.

"Never before have we had this kind of opportunity for farmers to work for themselves rather than the government," he said.

When asked if the administration's goals will be at odds with Representative Peterson's stated desire to keep farm programs similar to current law, Johanns later told reporters that, change in farm policy "is an evolutionary process."

"Every farm bill is built on the shoulders of the last farm bill," he said.

Johanns also said he thinks the budget deficit will place limits on whatever Congress does, whether it's disaster legislation that Peterson said it will consider soon after its first 100 hours of legislation, or the new farm bill.

"I just think that budget issues will be at the top of every discussion," Johanns told reportes.

Salt Lake City, Utah -- Represenative Collin Peterson (D-MN), the new chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, told reporters at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting here Monday that he has met with Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa to discuss stronger payment limitations in the next farm bill. But Peterson apparently doesn't share their support.

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