The political debate in Washington is starting to shift focus from the Republican presidential campaign to the economy, gas prices, Afghanistan, health care, the budget and the next farm bill.
While it’s a long shot that U.S. agriculture will see a new farm bill by the time the old one expires later this year, the information gathering process is already under way, with the House Agriculture Committee announcing a number of hearings across the United States this spring.
It’s no surprise that Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley is up to his same old, same old — again pushing for payment limitations.
“A strong safety net is critical to ensuring a safe and affordable food supply,” said Grassley. “In order to maintain that safety net, we can’t have the mentality of the past where the government looked the other way and allowed people with no connection to the farm to take farm payments. It’s unacceptable that small- and medium-sized farmers get so little of the very program that was created to help them.”
Apparently, Grassley’s desire is to create smaller operations and more operators. That seems to be the trend these days.
A budget proposal by Paul Ryan, R-Wis., proposes to cut around $30 billion from farm programs over the next 10 years. Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee said of the Ryan budget, “It is appalling that in an attempt to avoid defense cuts the Republican leadership has elected to leave farmers and hungry families hurting.
“We need to get our spending under control and agriculture has shown that we can do our part, but all other sectors of our economy need to do so as well. To do otherwise is irresponsible.”
It should be noted that U.S. agriculture is doing its part in other ways too. For example, U.S. farmers and ranchers exported a record $136 billion in calendar year 2011 which contributed to an overall ag trade surplus of $43 billion.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., the chairman of the House ag committee preferred to stay on task in what may prove to be a very difficult environment.
“We must develop a farm bill that works for all regions and all commodities. We have repeatedly heard that a one-size-fits-all program will not work. So the commodity title must give producers options so they can choose the program that works best for them.”
Lucas also supports “a strong crop insurance program as the cornerstone of the farm safety net and the continuing use of conservation programs to protect natural resources. My producers in Oklahoma are also worried about regulations coming down from EPA.”
If you have thoughts on the next farm you’d like to share, the House is offering an opportunity to record your comments. Go to agriculture.house.gov/farmbill.