WASHINGTON, Nov. 3  –  As of midday Wednesday, the Ranking Minority member of the House Agriculture Committee, Collin Peterson, said discussions over how to find $23 billion in farm bill cuts were in a “holding pattern”  and  that “there appears to be some backsliding” on some of the most contentious issues in the commodity title.  But the pace seemed to pick up last night, and expectations are building that a package will come together before the end of the week.


In an exclusive interview with Red River Farm Network’s (RRFN) Mike Hergert, the Minnesota Democrat said the remaining challenges in the commodity title were based on regional differences and “an entitlement mentality” where people think, “we have this money and it belongs to us.”


“We have to get away from that. In this climate, we can’t justify a program that’s going to pay people when they don’t need it, or pay people based on something they don’t do anymore. That’s gotten us into a lot of trouble,” Peterson explained.


“I want to make sure cotton has gotten an effective safety net. I want to make sure peanuts and rice have an effective safety net, as well as wheat, barley, oats, corn and soybeans. That’s the goal. Not that cotton has this much money now and therefore, should always have that much money. But there are people who are looking at it that way, and that’s part of the problem.”


Peterson said another challenge in the commodity title was due to the interaction between new farm program proposals and crop insurance.


“One of the things we agreed to early on was that there were going to be no cuts to crop insurance and that, what ever we ended up doing wouldn’t undermine crop insurance,” Peterson said. “That’s difficult to do because if you have a revenue program there’s probably going to be some interaction with crop insurance. Sen. Roberts is very insistent that it have no interaction, but it’s virtually impossible to do. “


In a brief conversation with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas on Wednesday afternoon, he told Agri-Pulse that: “the commodity title is always difficult. But efforts are ongoing.” 


Commodity title discussions seem to be focused on four general options. In some scenarios, there is a “one-size fits all” program, but others would give growers an option to select a program that works best for their crops and region of the country. Some of the commodity program options under discussion include:


·         Some version of a revenue guarantee program.


·         A counter-cyclical program based on a higher target price for key commodities, coupled with a shallow loss program that is similar to one proposed by Rep. Randy Neugebauer R-Texas.


·         The National Cotton Council’s revenue program, Stacked Income Protection Program, (STAX)


·         Fixed payments with some sort of a price trigger mechanism.


In the interview with RRFN, Peterson said 4 or 5 titles of the farm bill package are completed, including dairy. 


“We’ve got some issues in rural development, conservation, and nutrition, but those are all solveable.”


But other sources tell Agri-Pulse that the specialty crop provisions, which are important in Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow’s home state of Michigan, are also proving to be contentious. That’s primarily because Stabenow wants to include an additional $1 billion for specialty crops in a package where every other title is being cut or eliminated all together.


On dairy, Peterson acknowledged that people in some parts of the country won’t be happy, but it’s “as good as a consensus as you can get in dairy.


“It moves us to margin insurance; it gives us a stabilization fund so if we get in an oversupply situation we can deal with it. It gets rid of price supports. It gets rid of the MILC (Milk Income Loss Contract) program.  It modernizes dairy policy and moves us to a more market-oriented system, which we need to do.  It should help us in the export market.”


Peterson also confirmed that there will be cuts in conservation for both land retirement programs and working lands.


“We are going to ratchet the CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) down to follow what’s going to happen anyway….That saves a fair amount of money.”


Other sources told Agri-Pulse that the acreage cap will be lowered from 32 million acres to somewhere in the 25-27 million acre range.


NRCS conservation programs will be consolidated and steamlined into groups that will focus on their respective functions. Peterson said current conservation programs will be consolidated into 5 programs.


Other sources close to the negotiations told Agri-Pulse on Wednesday that:


·         Nutrition programs will likely be cut by $4 billion, primarily by reducing administrative costs and without touching politically sensitive food stamps and school nutrition programs.


·         The livestock title will likely be eliminated. Programs that provide disaster assistance for livestock will be continued.


·         Not much will be left of the 2008 Farm Bill energy title, which included many programs with baselines that expired on Sept. 30, 2011. The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) are expected to be reauthorized, but with no funding.


·         Research funding is expected to be maintained at current levels


To listen to Mike Hergert’s full interview with Rep. Peterson, click the following link:


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