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Published January 24, 2014, 09:24 AM

Peterson blames Grassley for farm bill heartburn

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, announced at a meeting in Comstock, Minn., on Jan. 23, that the farm bill had hit another snag late in the day.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

COMSTOCK, Minn. — Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, announced at a meeting in Comstock, Minn., on Jan. 23, that the farm bill had hit another snag late in the day.

Payment limits are the current hang-up in passing the farm bill, and have been for the past week, Peterson said.

“The biggest problem is the ‘actively engaged’ language,” Peterson told Agweek, blaming the issue on language that Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is insisting on. “It says that unless you put 1,000 hours on a tractor you can’t get any payments from the government. Nobody does that anymore. What farmer puts 1,000 hours in on a tractor? They hire people to do that. Under his rules you couldn’t get a payment.”

Asked whether there’s something else that Grassley wants, Peterson said, “Who the hell knows?”

“First, there is nothing in the bill that says you have to actually sit on a tractor to reach the 1.000 hours of active farming,” says Beth Levine, communications director for Grassley. “Second, land owners are not subject to the 1,000 hours. There is also an exemption for one additional farm manager (plus a spouse).”

Peterson, speaking at a meeting of the Richland Wilkin Joint Powers Authority, said he had hoped something might break that day.

“I just had an e-mail that said they found another way to hang it up — not my staff but the other guys,” Peterson said, shaking his head. “We’re ‘this close’ to getting a farm bill done. The way it looks to me we will get it done either next week or the week after that. Finally, after three years.”

In the farm bill is a new regional partnership system that Peterson crafted, which might pay for some water retention work that could contribute to solving spring flooding. In the new regional partnership there are five priority areas, including the Red River of the North, Peterson said.

Peterson said there is $1.3 billion for regional partnerships.

“We’re one of the priority areas that have applied. The first year of the farm bill, the amount available is $235 million. I don’t know of any other area that is ready to go. If these guys get on the ball and get to be first in line, we can build a lot of projects.”

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