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Farm Bureau delegates keep options open on farm bill

DANIEL LOOKER 01/11/2011 @ 8:51pm Business Editor

Farm Bureau delegates voted to give their lobbyists the flexibility to work for continuing nearly all of the existing commodity programs at their annual policy debate in Atlanta, Georgia Tuesday, even though funds may be more limited if Congress decides to cut federal spending this year.

The group also voted in favor of shifting funds from the current ethanol tax credit to building blender pumps and other infrastructure to sell more ethanol.

That move puts Farm Bureau more in line with policy advocated by the ethanol lobbying group, Growth Energy. Growth and three other groups – the National Corn Growers Association, Renewable Fuels Association and American Coalition for Ethanol – have all committed to reform that would slowly phase out the current 45-cent-a-gallon tax credit for ethanol, but only if there’s federal support for other ways to increase the sale of ethanol.

The group also voted against lowering the $1-a-gallon tax credit for the biodiesel industry. That tax credit expired in 2009 and wasn’t restored until the lame duck session of Congress in December.

“Given a year we’ve been without the biodiesel credit, if we get rid of it, we’re in trouble,” said Darryl Brinkmann of Illinois, who is also a past chairman of the National Biodiesel Board.

Farm Bureau now supports several changes in ethanol policy, including:

--“legislation to require that all new gasoline-powered vehicles must be flex fuel” (which can burn up to 85% ethanol).

--“efforts to educate consumers and industry on the benefits of biofuel blends higher than ten percent.”  and

--“the transition of the bolumetric renewable fjuels excise tax credits from the blending point that builds biofuel infrastructure including blender pumps and biofuel pipelines…”

When the delegates debated farm policy, several wanted to support making proportionate cuts in all USDA programs, or even tying ag program cuts to the size of any cuts to the entire federal budget.

But Nebraska Farm Bureau President Keith Olsen said that it might make more sense to cut some programs more than others.

“I think we’re tying the hands of our organization. I think we’re tying the hands of our Congress,” he said.

In the end, they rejected supporting specific cuts and, instead, backed nearly all of the the programs in the 2008 farm bill, including:

--“…strong risk management programs…”

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