Content ID

46128

Grassley sees tighter USDA budget for farm bill

Congress hasn't yet decided how much money will be allocated for the 2007 farm bill, but with higher commodity prices, it appears that the spending baseline will be about $18 billion less than what was allocated for the 2002 farm bill, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told Iowa Farmers Union members last weekend.

Tuesday, Grassley said that he's hopeful that at least some of the $18 billion will be added back for spending in the next farm bill, because the Senate Budget Committee is headed by Kent Conrad, a Democrat from another farm state, North Dakota. And, he pointed out his fellow Iowan in the Senate, Agriculture Committee chairman Tom Harkin, is also arguing for more spending. Grassley sits on both the Agriculture and Budget committees. Restoring funds will be harder in the House of Representatives, he said.

"I think there's a good chance we'll have some of the money restored. We probably are dreaming if we think we'll have all $18 billion restored," he said.

When asked if the farm bill would be affected if the $18 billion is not added back, Grassley told reporters Tuesday, "I think the programs that will suffer will be the things that we would like to expand."

That likely would affect finding more money for conservation and for the development of biofuels, he said.

"I think it's going to be more difficult to take money away from crop support programs," if the budget is smaller, he said.

The budget committees are already getting lots of pressure to increase spending for agriculture.

In late January, a letter went to the committees from 100 farm groups including commodity groups, American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union urging them to "resist efforts to force further budget reductions on agricultural, food assistance, conservation and other critical programs."

On February 7, 116 other farm and conservation groups, including National Catholic Rural Life Conference, the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the American Society of Agronomy, sent a similar letter urging more funding for ag.

Ferd Hoefner, a lobbyist for the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said he has since gotten "a positive reaction from budget committee staff" who say that some increase in funding from the baseline is a possibility.

Many of Grassley's own top priorities for the next farm bill aren't costly, but in the past they haven't made it past opposition, either in Congress or the Bush Administration. Last Saturday Grassley outlined his top six goals to members of Iowa Farmers Union at a meeting in Des Moines, Iowa. They include:

  1. A ban on long-term ownership of livestock by meatpackers. Grassley says packers use ownership to drive down prices when the market is high, something the American Meat Institute disputes, saying that contracting to assure supplies is a normal business practice.
  2. Limiting farm program payments. "I want a hard cap on farm payments that does away with the subterfuge of generic certificates (used to circumvent limits in the marketing loan program) and the three-entity rule," Grassley said. The administration has proposed instead that farm program payments be denied to those with more than $200,000 in adjusted gross income. Grassley said it's an idea he's also interested in. "That may be the simplest way to do it," Grassley said later, although there may also be privacy issues if the names of those denied program payments become public.
  3. Improving mandatory price reporting by meat packers. The program isn't working as well as Grassley had hoped in the Iowa-Southern Minnesota hog market, Grassley said.
  4. Better enforcement of antitrust laws and laws insuring competition in agriculture such as the Packers and Stockyards Act.
  5. A ban on mandatory arbitration clauses in agricultural production contracts. "I'm an advocate for arbitration because I think anything you can keep out of the courts is good—but not mandatory arbitration," Grassley told Farmers Union. If a contract livestock producer gets into a dispute with the company the producer works with, mandatory arbitration bans the possibility of taking the company to court, and also keeps the farmer's attorneys from using legal discovery, Grassley said.
  6. Mandatory country of origin labeling, something in the last farm bill that Congress later delayed. "I'm very much for the consumer knowing where his food comes from in the same way a T-shirt has to be labeled if it comes from another country,' Grassley said.

Grassley said that he met with Senator Agriculture Chairman Harkin early last week and that, on major issues in the next farm bill, the two senators are in agreement.

Congress hasn't yet decided how much money will be allocated for the 2007 farm bill, but with higher commodity prices, it appears that the spending baseline will be about $18 billion less than what was allocated for the 2002 farm bill, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told Iowa Farmers Union members last weekend.

Read more about
Loading...

Talk in Marketing