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Farm bill still expected...maybe

There are doubters among Washington’s farm lobbyists, but most are expecting the Senate Agriculture Committee to release a draft of a farm bill today ahead of a full committee session to approve it next week.

You can tell that the end of this process is near, by the blizzard of press releases, some approving, some not.

Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group is urging his supporters to write members of Congress to oppose what he calls “the giveaway to Big Ag.”

“…right now Congress is only providing minimal support for healthy, local and organic foods while expanding wasteful subsidies and giveaways that support the wealthiest agribusinesses - at the expense of family farmers,” Cook says in an email released to EWG supporters today.

Meanwhile, praise for likely parts of the bill was voiced Thursday in a letter to ag committee leaders from the American Farm Bureau Federation and commodity groups representing barley, dry peas and lentils, canola, corn, soybeans, sunflowers, and wheat.

“First, we commend you for affirming that the Committee will seek deficit reduction savings in the farm bill totaling $23 billion over ten years, the same amount you committed to make to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction last fall,” says the letter to the committee’s chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-WI) and its ranking Republican, Pat Roberts of Kansas.

“We also commend the Committee’s decision during the Super Committee process to not restructure the federal crop insurance program or to reduce its funding for deficit reduction purposes,” the letter adds.  “Crop insurance is the core risk management tool used by our producers, and the current program should serve as the foundation for providing additional protection against loss.”

The groups don’t have one common detailed farm bill proposal, but they endorsed a broad policy against programs that might affect farmers planting decisions.

“With regard to development of a new program that complements the risk protection provided under crop insurance, our organizations support an approach that partially compensates for current-year revenue losses on a crop-specific basis,” the groups said.

Last fall, leaders of House and Senate ag committees drew up a bill that contained several commodity programs, including target prices for rice that some in other farm groups considered too high.

One lobbyist told Friday that he expects a similar smorgasbord approach in the draft to be released today.

Another was skeptical that Senate Ag Committee staff will be able to iron out commodity differences and finishing touches to a new dairy revenue protection program in time to put the draft out today.

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(And this link will take you to a National Corn Growers Association statement on the commodity group letter, as well as the full letter.)

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