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Lucas Calls This Week the Farm Bill Deadline



(NAFB)--Frank Lucas - House Agriculture Committee Chairman and leader of the Farm Bill Conference Committee - says farm bill leaders need to have a draft of the farm bill by the end of this week if it’s to become law before the end of the year. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow expressed hope the leaders could release a framework by the end of the week or shortly thereafter.

These committee leaders aren’t alone in their desire to make a big push forward in the farm bill negotiations. Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns - former Secretary of Agriculture - sent a letter to the leaders of the farm bill conference committee Tuesday. He said as conferees aim to wrap up this week - it’s crucially important to be more honest about the risks in the direction some are trying to take.

Johanns said it will distort the ag economy, raise trade concerns and skew the market for farmers and ranchers for years to come. He said producers need the certainty of long-term ag policy - but deserve a farm bill that helps them sell goods on the global market - not one that distorts it. Johanns even said an extension of the current farm bill - something he has opposed - would be better than an outdated farm policy.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley also focused on the idea of recoupling target prices to planted acres in a statement Tuesday. Grassley said he’s hearing Chairman Lucas and his staff are trying to convince people there is no reason to be troubled about concerns regarding planted acres. But he said enacting the House commodity title - where extremely high target prices for some crops are coupled with planted acres - would take us back to a time when farmers planted for the government instead of the market. On top of that - Grassley noted concerns of World Trade Organization challenges.

Grassley also expressed surprise that negotiators are still talking about possible changes to actively engaged criteria and the use of planted acres or base acres in commodity programs. Grassley said the current actively engaged law isn’t working - but noted the Government Accountability Office recently said language in the Senate-passed farm bill would be an appropriate fix.

Given the actively engaged provisions are the same in the House and Senate bills - Grassley said there’s no reason for these provisions to be part of the discussion. But according to Grassley - enacting the House commodity title would take us backwards to a time when farmers planted for the government instead of the market. Grassley said he wants to get a farm bill done - but wants to vote for a good bill that is defensible.

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