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'Agriculture's already taken its cuts,' Iowa soybean growers say

The majority of the farmer-members of the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) are largely pleased with the provisions of the 2002 farm bill.

But, despite the ISA research that indicates Iowa soybean farmers' contentment with current policy, the group is pushing for some changes, most notably in research and conservation funding and an end to the push for more cuts in farm spending -- particularly in the commodity title, ISA leaders said Friday.

"The current program has spent billions less with the current commodity title and will continue to spend less," said Iowa Farm Issues Task Force director, ISA chairman and Perry, Iowa, farmer Ron Heck. "We think it's enough cuts. Agriculture has done more than its share in balancing the budget."

Heck added $80 billion is the current projected price tag of the farm program's commodity title, down from the original tally of $140 billion in 2002.

ISA leaders are pushing for a commodity title that includes "less-distorting" adjustments to loan rates and target prices. While this may require additional funding, Heck said Friday there's enough money in the current program to fund these changes.

"We recommend that any additional funding be taken from direct payments, because they tend to go to landlords rather than working farmers," Heck said. "The remaining direct payments should go toward risk management vouchers to working farmers."

In addition to recommendations for additional federal funding for crop and biofuels research, ISA farm bill proposals include:

  • Commodity Title
    • Title should be strengthened by adjusting loan rates and target prices to a less-trade-distorting 2000-2004 average. Direct payments should be reduced as necessary for budget purposes to make this adjustment.
    • Oppose the USDA proposal to move $8.2 billion out of marketing loans and counter-cyclical payments and then increasing direct payments by $5 billion. Marketing loans and CCPs go into the hands of operating farmers while direct payments benefit primarily landlords with increased rental rates and higher land costs.
    • Oppose moving money from the commodity title to the conservation title in order to make farm payments more WTO compliant. Information from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows that of 30 developed countries, average support for agriculture is 29% of their revenue. However, U.S. agriculture receives only a 16% subsidy.
    • Support the current farm bill language on payment limitations. The $200,000 adjusted gross income (AGI) cap would encourage rapid expansion of those farms over that level and would also create an environment where only outside investors could afford to buy the land. ISA believes that rather than looking at number of producers that would be in the program with the $200,000 AGI cap, USDA should consider the percentage of crop production and acres that would be eliminated from the farm program if this cap were enacted.
  • Conservation Title
    • Support creation of a targeted Regional Water Enhancement Program providing grants to farmers for Partnership and Cooperation projects. Further, ISA supports establishment of 30 of these targeted efforts through the Discovery Watershed Demonstration Program focusing on nitrogen loss in the Upper Mississippi River Basin as a national priority.
    • Conservation programs can be strengthened by combining existing programs for greater simplicity, efficiency and effectiveness. Funding levels for conservation programs should be increased.
    • ISA believes that up to 7 million acres nationally of less environmentally sensitive CRP land could come back into production to meet the demands of the ethanol and livestock industries for corn without sacrificing soybean acres. ISA supports reauthorizing and increasing funding for the Conservation Security Program (CSP) as a trade-off to allowing conversion of CRP land back to crop systems.

"The Iowa Soybean Association supports the major provisions in the current farm bill because it has met the needs of families who totally depend on agriculture for their living. We believe we have the right policy in place to encourage production in the most viable production areas," according to ISA's farm bill proposal released late last month. "Specific appropriations for research into soybean production and a reduction in CRP acres would enhance our productivity, especially in an era when the renewable fuels industry is increasing the demand for grain crops."

The majority of the farmer-members of the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) are largely pleased with the provisions of the 2002 farm bill.

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