Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Farm Bill Discussion Heats Up

In the quest to seek additional financial support in the farm bill discussion, environmentalists and fruit/vegetable producers have teamed up to try and influence how the farm bill takes shape. But it is an alliance to likely be short lived:

Last September, specialty-crop growers and land-preservation groups rallied behind a $5 billion, bipartisan initiative called the EAT Healthy America Act. The plan, reintroduced in the House this year (HR 1600) by Democrat Dennis Cardoza of California, would boost funding for farmland preservation and produce growers in the rewrite of the 2002 farm law (PL 171-107).

But with money expected to be tight in the farm bill, lobbyists say the alliance may splinter if one group fares better than the other in a manager’s mark that House Agriculture Chairman Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., plans to unveil before the Memorial Day recess.

“It doesn’t matter who you were working with before,” an agriculture lobbyist said. “It’s all going to come down to the money.”

Congressman Peterson further outlined concerns on the farm bill:

Peterson said even if the budget talks - carried out by committees separate from the two agricultural committees - don't soon produce a cap for the five-year farm bill, he wants to get started on policy work in the House committee.

"It's not going to do us any good to delay this," said Peterson. "We know what the issues are."

He's also a realist on politics of the big program crops that include corn, wheat, rice, cotton and peanuts - even if he'd personally like to scrap aid programs started more than 50 years ago.

"The bottom line is, if you don't have rice, cotton and peanuts on board, you aren't going to pass a bill," he said after dismissing the notion of a cap on individual farm payments which USDA advocated in its draft bill offered in January.

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