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Releasing CRP would complicate farm bill

Agriculture.com Staff 01/15/2008 @ 2:32pm

Kansas State University ag economst Barry Flinchbaugh, a veteran observer of the agonizing birth of many farm bills, said he's not surprised that the USDA won't okay an early release of Conservation Reserve Program acres this year.

"Now is exactly the wrong time, politically, to open of the CRP," Flinchbaugh told Agriculture Online in a telephone interview Tuesday.

With serious negotiations over the final bill to start later this month, the White House needs allies among conservation groups as it tries to get members of congressional ag committees to agree to a lower means test for farm program payments.

The Bush administration wants payments excluded if you have adjusted gross income above $200,000. The Senate's farm bill has a $1 million income cap that lowers to $750,000 before the farm bill expires. And the House version has a $500,000 limit for those who don't get two-thirds of their income from farming.

Some environmental groups such are strong supporters of capping commodity program payments. Others, such as Pheasants Forever, want to maintain as many CRP acres as possible for hunting. None of that bodes well for grain traders and livestock producers who might want to see a few more acres available for corn in 2008.

"Politically, I don't see them doing this," Flinchbaugh said of any early out for CRP acres. "You're in an election year. No matter what you do with CRP, you're going to anger some people."

"If prices continue to climb, and with demand for ethanol and exports, etc., there's certainly going to be pressure and some of it will come from the livestock interests," he said.

On the farm bill itself, Flinchbaugh remains in the camp that expects a bill to be passed.

"There's been a ton of work and political effort put into this. I think we'll have a bill on the president's desk by April," he said.

Kansas State University ag economst Barry Flinchbaugh, a veteran observer of the agonizing birth of many farm bills, said he's not surprised that the USDA won't okay an early release of Conservation Reserve Program acres this year.

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