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Farm Bureau delegates keep options open on farm bill
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
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
--“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…”
--“funding for conservation programs that will continue
to protect natural resources…”
--“a strong safety net that consists of direct payments,
crop insurance, a countercyclical program, and a simplified Average Crop
Revenue Election (ACRE) program.”