WASHINGTON, January 18, 2012 -Retiring Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., is determined to play a prominent role in the development of a new farm bill. In a series of visits with North Dakota ag leaders this week, the chairman of the powerful Budget Committee and senior member of the Agriculture Committee unveiled plans to introduce legislation to provide a less complex, more defensible, and more effective safety net program for farmers.

“The new program I’m proposing will complement crop insurance, without duplicating or undermining it, by providing some protection from shallow losses that crop insurance typically does not cover,” Conrad said.

His version of shallow loss revenue protection combines ACRE and SURE into one streamlined program that he insisted will be easier to understand and administer than the current crop insurance program, and provide payments in a timelier manner.

A central figure in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bill debates, Conrad called the latest farm bill negotiations some of the most challenging – and critical – of his career. He believes there are two viable options.

“One is to have a short-term extension of the current legislation (and) the other is to try to write a new farm bill this year,” the senator said in an interview with the Red River Farm Network.

“I very much favor trying to write a new farm bill this year because I don’t believe time is on our side,” he said, referring to the likelihood of even deeper spending reductions in farm programs in 2013. “The longer we wait, the bigger the cuts, and the less likely it is we’ll be able to provide an adequate safety net.”

Conrad said the top four Ag Committee leaders on Capitol Hill – Chairman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Pat Roberts in the Senate and Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson in the House – must guide the farm bill debate. Stabenow has said she’ll resume hearings on new farm legislation next month. Lucas has not announced his plans.


Original story printed in January 18, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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