Friday, July 13, 2007

Ag Foes Face-Off This Tuesday

A big showdown begins next week as the U.S. House Agriculture Committee conducts its markup of the 2007 Farm Bill.

The committee will meet Tuesday morning at the Longworth House Office Building in the nation's capital. The key gunslinger to watch in this shootout is Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who chairs the committee.

Peterson has reportedly been making deals in recent weeks to build consensus on some reforms to the farm-commodity payment system.

Brownfield Network's Steve Kopperud is reporting that Peterson now has the backing of the American Farm Bureau Federation and is close to cutting a deal with Southern members of the committee.

The Southern ag contingent has long fought tooth-and-nail against any sort of payment limitations, and has pushed a version of the farm bill that simply extends the 2002 legislation.

Of late, Peterson has been suggesting payment limits, but he would place limits based on a farmer's gross adjusted income -- rather than a simple limit on maximum payment amounts per individual.

Another faction to watch closely as the shootout unfolds is led by Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis. Kind's cohorts were defeated in subcommittee, but they likely will make a move on the full House floor to institute an "alternative" farm bill.

Kopperud reports that Kind "has the support of just about every warm and fuzzy enviro, save-the-family farm and consumer group on the planet." Kind's legislation would continue counter-cyclical payments, but only to farmers who have a gross adjusted income of $200,000 or less.

On the Senate side of the farm bill debate, ag committee chairman Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa was quoted this week as saying that he will not allow a farm bill to pass through his committee unless it provides funding for conservation and nutrition programs.

Brownfield Network reported that the Democrat said, "I can tell you, as chairman -- they'll have to carry me out out of here feet first -- but, I am not going to let a Farm Bill get through that doesn't answer the needs of the poorest people in this country in terms of nutrition and food stamps."

As reported this week on Iowa Independent, Harkin will be chairman of the conference committee, which will resolve differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill.

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