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House Ag Committee will consider scaled-down version of Corn Growers program

Agriculture.com Staff 07/18/2007 @ 8:05am

In the farm bill that the House Agriculture Committee will debate this week, Committee Chairman Collin Peterson said Tuesday that he will include language that will give farmers a choice of signing up for the existing countercyclical program or for a revenue-based payments.

One type of revenue-based payment tied to county-level yields and prices has been promoted by the National Corn Growers Association. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has advocated a similar idea, tied to national revenue.

Peterson didn't offer details, but he said recently after discussing the idea with a top USDA official, that an optional program might be more acceptable to other commodity groups, which have been slow to endorse the Corn Growers' approach.

"This will give us an opportunity, as we move forward, to see how this works in practice," Peterson said Tuesday.

This is the first time that the full committee is considering the next farm bill. It didn't vote on any portion of it Tuesday. Peterson called on fellow members to make opening statements but he put off marking up a farm bill until Wednesday, so that members have more time to look at last minute changes. Earlier versions of the committee's farm bill, posted on its website, did not include an optional revenue-based program.

Comments by several members hinted at disagreements facing the committee.

One involves mandatory Country of Origin Labeling, strongly opposed by the packing industry as costly and ineffective, but backed by several farm and consumer groups. COOL is already in the 2002 farm bill and Peterson has said that he won't try to delay its implementation in 2008. But he has called for dialogue between proponents and opponents to make regulations workable for the industry.

Representative David Scott, a Georgia Democrat, said that some changes in the law might be needed to help processors. I said he will introduce amendments to exclude ground meats from mandatory labeling. And, he said, the definition of U.S. meat might need to be changed from coming from livestock born and raised in the U.S. to "harvested from U.S. herds or flocks."

Another Democrat from a southern state, Representative John Barrow of Georgia, disagreed.

He said he was worried that COOL would be weakened. "I'm concerned that we don't water down the standards," he said.

In the farm bill that the House Agriculture Committee will debate this week, Committee Chairman Collin Peterson said Tuesday that he will include language that will give farmers a choice of signing up for the existing countercyclical program or for a revenue-based payments.

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