Thune expects to preserve commodity title reforms

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2013- Senator John Thune, R-S.D., said he expects the farm bill being marked up in the Senate Agriculture Committee on May 14 to look similar to the Senate-passed legislation in 2012, unless southern committee members succeed in maintaining current commodity title programs.

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“I think the contours of the commodity title should be similar to what we saw last year,” Thune said in a teleconference. However, he noted that southern crop interests on the committee will “aggressively advocate for a target price, and that's something we sort of got away from in the farm bill last year.

The Senate Agriculture Committee, led by Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and new Ranking Member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., will hold a mark-up of a five-year farm bill next Tuesday. While the Senate passed a five-year farm bill in 2012, the House did not vote on the House Agriculture Committee legislation, resulting in the extension of the previous 2008 farm bill.

Thune said his goals for the commodity title include replacing counter-cyclical and direct payments, Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) program and Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program with strong crop insurance provisions and “one other component program used only when needed and triggered on an infrequent basis.”

The Commodity Title of the drafted 2012 farm bill, which never became law, eliminated the direct and counter-cyclical payment programs and the ACRE program to replace them with the Average Risk Coverage (ARC) program that limits payments to a certain level.

He emphasized that producers in his constituency consider crop insurance the most important aspect of the farm safety net. When it comes to establishing direct payments and target prices in the commodity title, he said, “My goal is to move away from some of those older less efficient and sort of marketing distorting farm policies and programs to get us toward some of these reforms and what I think the future of farm policy will look like.”

Thune also said food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), in the nutrition title of the farm bill should be reformed to save costs, but that Democrats would resist reforms.

“It's just important in my view, especially in light of budget constraints we're all facing and in light of the need to defend farm programs to a national constituency, that we're doing everything we can to make the farm bill as efficient and lean as possible,” he said.

Thune noted that committee members are stilling waiting for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score of the farm bill being reviewed next week.  


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