House gets down to farm bill nitty-gritty


WASHINGTON – The House agriculture committee began subcommittee markups of the 2007 farm bill this week. The work continues next month, after legislators return from the Memorial Day recess.
Each subcommittee will conduct markups on the farm bill titles under its jurisdiction. Existing titles include: commodity programs, conservation, trade, nutrition, credit, rural development, research, forestry, and energy.
Many provisions of the 2002 farm bill expire in September, but a lot of work remains between now and then.
Budget squeeze. Spending constraints will mold much of the farm bill debate. The Congressional Budget Office’s January 2007 estimate of the 2002 farm bill’s mandatory programs that most directly benefit the farm sector (commodity support and mandatory conservation and trade programs) for fiscal year 2002 through fiscal year 2007 was $93.3 billion.
The budget office’s projection for the same programs for the next six years is $70.6 billion.
The House ag committee reports that direct government payments to farm producers is $16.5 billion.
Those figures are not the complete farm bill budget. For example, nutrition title expenses – the food stamp program – were approximately $179 billion in fiscal years 2002 through 2007.
In this corner. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., who was nearly successful at derailing the 2002 farm bill that came out of the House ag committee, continues to lead a farm bill reform pack. Kind and three other congressmen offered their policy suggestions May 10, calling for a transition from the current system of farm subsidies to farmer-held risk management accounts and revenue insurance tools.
Kind called the current revenue insurance system “redundant” because the federal insurance program covers 80 percent of acres subsidized under Title I of the farm bill.
The legislators are also calling for more spending on conservation and environmental programs, like EQIP.
Trade parameters. The U.S. can’t create this major legislation in a domestic vacuum, as any new policy guiding payments to farmers must fall in world trade parameters.
The current Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations have stalled largely because of international differences in domestic farm support, export subsidies and import tariffs. Any new or existing commodity support programs must comply with World Trade Organization rules.
25x’25. The House ag committee sent a resolution to the full House floor May 17 supporting the 25x’25 effort. The resolution backs efforts to provide at least 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States through renewable sources by 2025.
(Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at

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