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Harkin sees support for his ideas from bipartisan group

Agriculture.com Staff 06/06/2007 @ 7:43am

Recently-released ideas for the next farm bill from formers Senators Tom Daschle and Bob Dole drew words of praise from Senate Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin Tuesday.

Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, and Dole, a Kansas Republican, made their recommendations on behalf of a new Bipartisan Policy Center.

Harkin sees that as another sign of support for some of his own ideas, such as reducing some types of commodity program payments and increasing federal investment in conservation and energy production from crops.

"I think there's a lot of support out there for the direction we're taking," Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, told reporters.

Among the farm payment ideas Daschle and Dole propose are strict caps on payments and eliminating direct payments, which Harkin has at least hinted he'd like to do. He supported a cap on payments in the 2002 farm bill debate and says he will do so this year, although he hasn't said yet exactly how.

The Daschle-Dole plan suggests:

"The core of the federal farm program must be a strong countercyclical program based on the two countercyclical elements of the current farm bill:
  1. A robust marketing loan program that treats all producers equally
  2. A partially decoupled countercyclical program.

Individual farm benefits should be capped at $250,000 per year and eligibility to obtain benefits through more than one entity should be eliminated."

And it also recommends that:

"Congress should eliminate the direct payment program and redirect funds for this program—along with savings generated by reduced countercyclical and LDP payments for corn, wheat, and soybeans—to permanent disaster assistance and promoting new income-generating opportunities for farmers in markets such as biofuels, renewable electricity, carbon sequestration, and conservation."

Harkin said Tuesday that with nearly one in five children in the United States living in poverty that an upward revision in the amount of money allocated for food stamps is badly needed. He proposes spending an additional $3.7 billion on food stamps over the five-year life of the next farm bill. Harkin said he hasn't heard any opposition to this proposal from commodity groups.

"We're just going to have to find the money," he said. "We cannot move this farm bil through the House and I dare say the Senate unless we address this issue."

Recently-released ideas for the next farm bill from formers Senators Tom Daschle and Bob Dole drew words of praise from Senate Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin Tuesday.

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