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Concerns In Iowa as Negotiations Over Farm Bill Resume

PHOTO: Concerns are being raised in Iowa that a provision in the Farm Bill to limit some types of payments may be stripped from the legislation in Conference Committee. Photo courtesy USDA.
PHOTO: Concerns are being raised in Iowa that a provision in the Farm Bill to limit some types of payments may be stripped from the legislation in Conference Committee. Photo courtesy USDA.
January 10, 2014

CLEAR LAKE, Iowa – As Congress nears the finish line on a new Farm Bill, there's concern that a provision to help keep family farms strong may be watered-down – or not included at all in the final legislation.

Both the U.S. Senate and House versions of the bill include a strict limit on certain types of payments to farmers.

Some lawmakers want those limits removed, but that would be a mistake, says Chris Petersen, a producer in Clear Lake and past president of the Iowa Farmers Union.

"We need agriculture in this country that's going to work for everybody,” he cautions. “And here in rural America, we need more farmers and more farms, not the opposite, you know – and that's what will happen if you don't have some form of payment limit."

The provision, from Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, would close loopholes that allow non-farmers to take advantage of the system.

It would also focus payments that help small and medium-sized farms when commodity prices are low, although Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has taken a softer position, noting there are different sized operations in different parts of the country.

Petersen says while it's true that agriculture varies widely across America, payment limits are still essential.

Under the current system, about 75 percent of all subsidies go to the biggest 10 percent of farming companies.

"You can farm as many acres as you want, but I think at a certain point, you need to go talk to the bank and not rely on the taxpayers,” he says. “You know, basically, this stuff is to help farmers stay solvent and pay your bills, and survive to be farming another year."

Lawmakers have been debating the Farm Bill for more than two years.

The next meeting of the Conference Committee could come as early as next week, with a number of differences that remain to be resolved.



John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA