WASHINGTON – The cameras had barely been turned off from the finalized farm bill news conference when Ohio’s lone representative on the conference committee weighed in with his opposition.
“The deal reached by House and Senate farm bill negotiators represents a giant leap backward in federal agriculture policy,” said Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio. “Farmers won’t get the safety net they are looking for, they will get caught in a trap – a trap that will lead to overproduction, lower prices and more reliance on the federal government for their income.”
Boehner would rather pass a supplemental aid bill and come back after the November elections and re-debate the farm bill.
The House voted 280-141 May 2 to pass The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. A motion that would have stalled the bill by sending it back into conference failed 172-251, with 11 not voting.
Senate action is still pending. President George W. Bush has indicated that he will sign the bill.
House Ag Committee Ranking Member Charlie Stenholm, D-Texas, responded to Boehner’s criticism by saying the counter-cyclical payments to program crop producers mean “Congress will not need to provide additional ad hoc income support when prices are in decline.”
The counter-cyclical program means any time the national average price for a commodity plus the direct payment is lower than the target price, there will be a counter-cyclical payment.
Maximum levels of counter-cyclical payments per bushel are 34 cents for corn, 36 cents for soybeans and 54 cents for wheat.
Both direct and counter-cyclical payments will be made on 85 percent of base acres for a given crop, however producers can keep their current base acres and yields or update base acres and yields based on 1998-2001 planted acres and harvested yields.
For the most part, there is bipartisan support for most commodity aspects of the new farm bill.
“The new counter-cyclical program is a national program equally applied to all regions, eliminating the past divisiveness within the industry,” said Jerry Kozak, president of the National Milk Producers Federation.
“It will provide some additional price stability for farmers, who have seen their prices whipsaw by as much as 40 percent a month in recent years,” Kozak said.
The National Farmers Union also voiced its support of the legislation. “The legislation, although far from prefect, is an improvement over current law.”
The group would have liked to see a ban on meatpackers owning livestock and better targeting of farm program benefits to family farmers added to the existing farm bill.
The National Pork Producers Council said the investment in conservation will be a benefit to the farm community. “At the federal, state and even the local level, producers are being asked to do more to protect the environment,” said council president Dave Roper. “Without cost-share assistance, however, the cumulative impact of new requirements put a tremendous burden on family producers of all sizes.”
The farm bill includes $9 billion in new funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, 60 percent of which are earmarked for livestock producers.
Roper did express disappointment, however, at the inclusion of mandatory country-of-origin labeling in the bill because it excludes poultry and “its costs will fall disproportionately on producers.”
The USDA will now begin writing rules and procedures to implement the legislation, sot that commodity provisions can take effect in 2002 through the Farm Service Agency. That process will likely take several months. No commodity payments to producers under the new legislation are scheduled until fall.
“Now it’s time to make sure the policies we support are implemented with the farm family in mind,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.
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