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Still different views on farm bill

Agriculture.com Staff 04/17/2007 @ 6:47pm

The chairmen of the House and Senate agriculture said Tuesday that they want to start writing the farm bill soon, probably in early May. But their views and those of ranking members are still apart on some issues.

Senate Ag Committee Chairman Tom Harkin still wants to make his Conservation Security Program bigger and easier to sign up for. House Ag Commitee Chairman Collin Peterson said he favors a program offered by a coalition of conservation, hunting and environmental groups that would increase conservation funding slightly, but would put more emphasis on older programs such as the conservation reserve and EQIP, the environmental quality incentives program.

There are differing view, too, of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announcement that he's having the USDA write its own version of the farm bill.

"I see nothing wrong with it," Harkin told North American Agricultural Journalists Tuesday. "I welcome it. I don't know that I'll agree with all of it but if somebody wants to do the work for me, I'm all for it. My staff is busy enough."

Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss, the ranking Republican on Harkin's committee took a different view. "I don't think it's the function of the Administration to draft a farm bill," he told the ag writers at their annual meeting in Washington.

Peterson said he believes his own ideas for the farm bill are closer to those of producers than the ideas proposed by the Administration so far.

Peterson also said he's been talking to commodity groups to see if they can find common ground on ideas for the commodity title of the farm bill.

When asked about his own views of proposals from different groups, he said, "I think the soyean people and thier allies have a point in this rebalancing" and his committee staff is looking at that. The American Soybean Association wants to see target prices raised for some commodities.

"The Corn Growers' proposal, I just don't see it getting any legs," he said. National Corn Growers Association is proposing replacing the current countercyclical program with a federally subsidized revenue insurance program.

On the National Association of Wheat Growers proposal that direct payments should be doubled, Peterson said that he has always had doubts about the value of a direct payment program.

"I just have to say I'm not a big fan of direct payment programs," he said. "It's hard to explain to people why farmers are getting payments when they've got the best crops they've ever had the last couple of years."

The chairmen of the House and Senate agriculture said Tuesday that they want to start writing the farm bill soon, probably in early May. But their views and those of ranking members are still apart on some issues.

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