Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Leaked Harkin Farm Bill Document 'Just Ideas,' His Staff Says

The Environmental Working Group has gotten its hands on what it says is a draft of Sen. Tom Harkin's proposals for the commodity title in the 2007 Farm Bill. But it's actually nothing more than a sheet of ideas for discussion, says Harkin's staff.
Harkin, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, has been keeping his cards close to his chest as his committee prepares to hold hearings next month to formally draft their version of the agriculture legislation. The Iowa Democrat has generally avoided specifics when openly discussing his plans for the bill, mostly emphasizing his strong commitment to expand the Conservation Security Program.
After obtaining the "leaked" proposal last week, the EWG distributed it widely. And EWG's Mulch blog criticized the plan as "basically a status-quo proposal, with many issues (like payment limits) not addressed."
But Kate Cyrul, Harkin's ag committee communications director, told Iowa Independent Tuesday that the EWG has it all wrong. "What EWG sent around is not the Harkin proposal," said Cyrul. "We shared a very brief explanation of what could be included in the commodity title with Dem staff of committee members and are in the process of meeting with some committee staff and with outside groups to discuss the counter-cyclical proposal in more detail. Just to emphasize, this is not legislative language, this is just ideas for staff of committee members to consider and respond to."
One of the key ideas presented in the document is the possible shift to a "revenue-based" system of counter-cyclical payments. The plan would base counter-cyclical commodity payments on commodity prices and crop yields, rather than just prices. The revenue-based approach has the endorsement of the National Corn Growers Association and has been pushed by Senate Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
In the House version of the 2007 Farm Bill passed July 27, a revenue-based payment program was inserted as an optional, rather than mandatory, system for farmers to receive counter-cyclical payments.

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