Wednesday, July 11, 2007

American Farm Bureau Supports Peterson Proposal

The American Farm Bureau announced that it was supporting a proposal by House Ag Committee Chairman Colin Peterson to essentially keep the status quo in regards to farm support payments.

“Farm Bureau, like Congress, must balance the interests of all sectors of American agriculture,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Farm Bureau is cognizant of that fact and it thinks the chairman’s mark represents the largest measure of fairness to various interests represented in the bill.”

According to AFBF, the chairman’s mark contains critical components for the future farm bill, which include: maintaining baseline funding for both the commodity and conservation titles; reauthorizing each of the three safety net components (direct payments, counter-cyclical payments and loan payments); keeping loan rates counter-cyclical and direct payments in accordance to the 2002 farm bill; and increasing funding for conservation programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

Farm Bureau isn't alone in supporting this latest proposal:

The nation's various farm groups are mostly coming out in support for House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson's latest farm policy proposals. The National Milk Producers Federation expressed its strong support this week for the Farm Bill package, which includes a major revision of the dairy price support program.

"The import assessment was one of the most important goals for producers when NMPF conducted its Dairy Producer Conclave meetings last year, prior to the development of our own set of Farm Bill priorities," NMPF's Jerry Kozak. "The Peterson bill also extends the current Milk Income Loss Contract program for the length of the next farm bill, at the current payment rate of 34% of the difference between the monthly Class I price and $13.69/cwt."

But not everyone loved the plan:

“This is a last gasp, or last grasp, to try to maintain the commodity programs,” University of California at Davis agricultural economist Dan Sumner said of the House bill.

Sumner allies himself with California’s fruit and vegetable growers, who seek a bigger share of the farm bill. The bill coming before the House committee next Tuesday does boost some specialty crop funding. For instance, it adds $200 million in specialty crop research over five years, and provides an additional $200 million in block grants helping states promote specialty crops.

Even so, specialty crop advocates -- and organic growers in particular – complain the current House bill shortchanges the fastest-growing sector of U.S. agriculture.

“We are looking for a niche,” said Cindy Lashbrook, a Merced County organic farmer who grows blueberries and almonds near Livingston. “We’re looking to be legitimized, in a way.”

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