Washington Week Ahead: Leaders search for common ground on farm bill

By Stewart Doan

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 - Major farm and commodity groups will get together this coming Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington, DC to learn more about the congressional timeline for writing new farm legislation and try to ease tensions stemming from competing safety net proposals.


In addition to receiving briefings from House and Senate Agriculture Committees staffers on plans to restart the farm bill debate, the ag groups “will share perspectives on their priorities for farm policy (and) hopefully, just establish a better dialogue and cooperation among the different groups going forward,” said Reece Langley, vice president of government affairs at the USA Rice Federation (USA Rice), which organized the meeting.


It will be attended by producer-leaders of the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, American Soybean Association (ASA), National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Sorghum Producers, USA Rice, U.S. Canola Association, National Barley Growers Association, National Sunflower Association, USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, and the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation.


ASA will reiterate its support for a revenue-based safety net, President Steve Wellman told Agri-Pulse, but also will be “willing to listen and try to find common ground” with others in the room.

 Together we can feed the Bees


Disagreements between the groups over the structure of a new farm safety net boiled over last fall during negotiations by the top four Ag Committee leaders on Capitol Hill on a package of farm policy recommendations for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.


The package, which will serve as the starting point for the Ag panels' work this spring on a 2012 Farm Bill, gives grain and soybean producers a choice of two safety net options: shallow-loss revenue protection or target prices more reflective of current production costs.


While rice, sorghum and peanut interests back the idea of letting producers decide between price or revenue protection, corn, soybean and wheat groups strongly oppose the target price option, arguing it would distort planting decisions, production and trade.


Wellman, who hails from Nebraska, received a crash-course on the economics of rice production during a visit to Arkansas earlier this week to speak to members of the Arkansas Soybean Association, many of whom also plant rice.


“I definitely understand rice more than I did before I came down here,” he said before adding, “but my job is to represent the interests of soybeans.” 


Details of the farm bill package hammered out by Ag Committee Chairs Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Rep. Frank Lucas have not been made public, but according to sources familiar with its contents, target prices for major commodities were set at: $13.98/cwt for rice; $5.50/bu. for wheat; $3.64/bu. for corn; and $8.31/bu. for soybeans.


Speaking to Agri-Pulse on the sidelines of a rice industry conference in Stuttgart, Arkansas Friday, Langley expressed hope that farm and commodity leaders can agree, at a minimum, next week to stop the public infighting.


“An agreement or willingness to try to contain and work out any differences among the groups and not air those differences in public, I think that would be a huge success,” he said.  


For other hearings and events this week:


Monday, January 30

12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m., CEI Hill Briefing: Don't Drill and Drive: Weakening the “User-Pays” Highway Funding Principle Would Endanger Our Nation's Transportation Infrastructure, Rayburn House Office Building Room B-338


USDA Reports: Monthly Milk Cost of Production


Tuesday, January 31

On Tuesday, the House will meet at 12:00 p.m. for Morning Hour debate and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m.


Motion to go to Conference on H.R. 658 - FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act


H. Res. 522 - Rule providing for consideration of the bill H.R. 1173 - The Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act of 2011 (Rep. Sessions - Rules) (One Hour of Debate)

5:00 p.m., Hearing: H.R. 3521 Expedited Legislative Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Act of 2011, House Committee on Rules, H-313 Capitol 


10:00 a.m., Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Full Committee Heraing: To receive testimony on the U.S. and global energy outlook for 2012 (Hearing Room SD-366) (Overflow Room SD-430)


10:00 a.m., Senate Finance Committee hearing to examine extenders and tax reform, focusing on long-term solutions. SD-215


USDA Reports: Egg Products, Agricultural Prices


Wednesday, February 1

Deputy Secretary Merrigan will participate in the National Academy of Public Administration panel discussion in Washington, DC   


On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. Morning Hour debate and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.


H.R. 1173 - The Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act of 2011 (Rep. Boustany - Energy and Commerce/Ways and Means) (Subject to a Rule)


Suspensions (3 Bills)


1.      H.R. 3835 - To extend the pay limitation for Members of Congress and Federal Employees (Rep. Duffy - Oversight and Government Reform)


2.   H.Res. 496   - Adjusting the amount provided for the expenses of certain committees of the House of Representatives in the One Hundred Twelfth Congress (Rep. Lungren - House Administration)


3.   H.R. 3567 - Welfare Integrity Now for Children and Families Act of 2011, as amended (Rep. Boustany - Ways and Means)

10:00 a.m., Hearing: Budget and Economic Outlook, House Committee on The Budget, 210 Cannon HOB

2:00 p.m., Hearing: Hearing entitled H.R. 3461: the Financial Institutions Examination Fairness and Reform Act, House Committee on Financial Services, Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, 2128 Rayburn HOB


3:00 p.m., Hearing: H.R. 3582 Pro-Growth Budgeting Act of 2011, House Committee on Rules, H-313 Capitol


3:00 p.m., Hearing: H.R. 3578 Baseline Reform Act of 2011, House Committee on Rules, H-313 Capitol


USDA Reports: Broiler Hatchery, Dairy Products

Thursday, February 2


Secretary Vilsack will attend the 60th National Prayer Breakfast, hosted by numerous Members of Congress and attended by the President


9:30 a.m., Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources: Hearing to receive testimony on the final report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (Hearing Room SD-366).


10:00 a.m., Hearing: The Collapse of MF Global: Part 2, House Committee on Financial Services, Oversight and Investigations, 2128 Rayburn HOB


10:00 a.m., Hearing: The State of the U.S. Economy, House Committee on The Budget, 210 Cannon HOB


10:00 a.m., Senate Budget Committee, hearing on the Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2012-2022, 608 Dirksen Senate Office Building


10:00 a.m., Senate Budget Committee hearing to examine the budget and economic outlook, focusing on fiscal years 2012-2022, SD-608.


12:00 a.m., Hearing: The Future of the Family Farm: The Effect of Proposed DOL Regulations on Small Business Producers, House Committee on Small Business, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade



USDA Reports: U.S. Export Sales


Friday, February 3

Deputy Secretary Merrigan will speak at “The Many Faces of Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food: A Local/Regional Food System Conference” at the Federal Reserve Board in Chicago, IL  


The House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for Legislative business with last votes expected no later than 3:00 p.m.


H.R. 3582 - Pro-Growth Budgeting Act of 2011 (Rep. Price (GA) - Budget/Rules) (Subject to a Rule)


H.R. 3578 - Baseline Reform Act of 2011 (Rep. Woodall - Budget) (Subject to a Rule)


10:00 a.m., Hearing: Fostering Quality Science at EPA: Perspectives on Common Sense Reform - Day II, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, 2318 Rayburn HOB


USDA Reports: Dairy Products Prices, Peanut Prices



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