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Peterson Sees Farm Bill ‘Sooner Rather Than Later’ in 2018

After the acrimony of the tax bill, the 2018 farm bill would be an ideal piece of legislation to rebuild bipartisan comity in the House, said Collin Peterson, the Democratic leader on the House Agriculture Committee in an interview with Red River Farm Network. Peterson said he and Agriculture Chairman Michael Conaway agree “we’re going to start marking this up in committee at the end of January or the first part of February.”

“We need to move this sooner rather than later,” Peterson said in the interview, estimating the farm bill would be debated in the House in February or March. “My expectation is that we’ll have a starting draft document (in committee) that will be supported by myself and the chairman. We’ll go through regular order; people will be able to offer amendments, and the public will be able to weigh in. That’s the way things should be done, and that’s how they should have done the tax bill.”

Peterson has pushed for months to expand the CRP, which pays an annual rent to landowners to idle fragile land for at least 10 years. “I think we’ve identified enough money to get acreage up to 32 million acres,” he said, from the current 24 million-acre ceiling. His plan calls for calculating payments to landowners at 85% of local land rental rates (compared with 100% currently) and spending less on establishing vegetative cover on the idled land. “We haven’t got it all completely fleshed out yet,” he said.

Conaway’s office said, “The committee stands ready when the (majority) leader provides floor time” with the expectation of debate during the first three months of the year. According to Peterson, staff workers on the Agriculture Committee have proposed language for parts of the farm bill.

Iowa Senator Charles Grassley told reporters last week that the Senate Agriculture Committee has not started work on its version of the farm bill.

To listen to the 18-minute interview, click here.

FERN’s Ag Insider. Produced by FERN
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