WASHINGTON, April 25 –South Dakota Senator John Thune said last night’s decision to postpone marking up the 2012 Farm Bill was driven in large part by “objections raised at the last minute by a couple of senators from the northern states and a senator from a southern state,” while declining to specifically identify his fellow committee members.


Several southern members of the Agriculture Committee have been quite transparent with their concerns about the new bill, but it wasn’t until last weekend when Thune’s “northern neighbors,” Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND, and Sen. Max Baucus, D-MT, appeared to be weighing in with specific demands which started to derail compromises which some had believed to be settled.


Earlier this year, Baucus, Conrad and North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven joined forces on an alternative proposal that was based on a farm level revenue plan.


Thune said part of the Northern Senators concerns dealt with how the commodity title would apply to wheat growers’ base acres, but they also wanted to take the revenue program down to the farm level. The Senate Agriculture Committee’s draft legislation that was released Friday had both county and farm level triggers, with the county and farm levels paying at different rates.


Taking the revenue program to only the farm level significantly adds to the cost, Thune said during a press conference today.

“You are talking about an additional $15 billion in costs, so it wipes out all of the savings. That’s what they are holding out for and we’ll see how that debate all plays out,” he added.
Asked to react to Thune's comments, Sen. Conrad said, "There is an ongoing negotiation that includes representatives from many states. This is not just centered on North Dakota. Many states are involved in these negotiations as we try and reach an agreement.


"We do not think people should get paid if they do not have losses," Conrad added. "And we do not think people should get paid twice.  However, we do think there ought to be equity between regions of the country. And we are following those principles in our discussions."


In a bipartisan plan that Thune helped develop last year with Senators Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Dick Lugar, R-Ind., and Dick Durban, D-Ill., “the federal government would only have made payments two times in last 10 years” versus the Conrad, Baucus, Hoeven plan which would be likely to trigger payments every year.


Thune also said there was discussion about having a cost of production test or threshold in the bill, which he said would be a real problem with USDA implementation.


“Nobody knows how you define that. I think it would be a real headache for USDA to try and figure out how you would even implement that kind of a test. But those are some of the things that some of the folks in our neighboring states are holding it up over and trying to get changed.


“I don’t think anybody on the Ag Committee was 100% satisfied with the Farm Bill that we were going to take up today,” Thune emphasized. “But waiting until hours before the mark-up to offer major modifications that could be adequately discussed or scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is a reminder of the sort of failed supercommittee process that we went through last fall and we saw what resulted with that. 


“There were a lot of people who thought that the farm bill provisions that were going to be included in that “supercommittee bill” were designed in secret and a lot of things done at the last minute.  I think that is a perception of this bill as well.”




For more news, go to: http://www.agri-pulse.com/