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Published February 13, 2012, 10:40 AM

Farm bill challenges

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — All commodity title program proposals need to change before Congress will pass a farm bill, American Farm Bureau Federation lobbyist Mary Kay Thatcher said in Scottsdale, Ariz., Feb. 9. “Everybody’s proposal has to change. I don’t think we have anything we can sell on the House or Senate floor,” Thatcher said in a speech to the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau annual meeting.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Agweek

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — All commodity title program proposals need to change before Congress will pass a farm bill, American Farm Bureau Federation lobbyist Mary Kay Thatcher said in Scottsdale, Ariz., Feb. 9.

“Everybody’s proposal has to change. I don’t think we have anything we can sell on the House or Senate floor,” Thatcher said in a speech to the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau annual meeting.

Thatcher said she thinks the commodity groups’ proposals for a “shallow loss” program or higher target prices and the Farm Bureau’s own catastrophic loss program will have to be adjusted.

“I don’t think we can sell higher target prices on the House or Senate floor,” she said. The proposals were included in the farm bill sent to the supercommittee in charge of deficit reduction.

Brazil’s criticism of the program that has been proposed for cotton, Thatcher said, will make compliance with trade issues an important part of the debate.

Thatcher said she does think Congress will agree to continue the $147 million per year payments to Brazil, the result of a World Trade Organization ruling that the U.S. cotton program caused damage to Brazil’s cotton industry.

The U.S. government is making the payments with the agreement that the next farm bill will include a cotton program that is an acceptable settlement of the WTO case.

Thatcher also said she thinks payment limitations and conservation compliance will be “challenges” for farm groups. She noted that more than 80 members of the Senate including some from the southern states voted in favor of a measure sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., which limited payments to farmers with incomes of more than $1 million.

Environmental groups are satisfied with the conservation title that was included in the proposal sent to the supercommittee in charge of deficit reduction, Thatcher said, but will turn their attention to making conservation compliance a requirement of crop insurance.

Thatcher said that between the lack of agreement among farm groups and the dysfunction in Congress, she gives the farm bill only a 15 percent chance of passing this year, but said there is still hope.

“There is no good reason not to finish it this year,” she said. “We need to do everything we can to get it done sooner rather than later.”

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