February 15, 2008
February 15, 2008 - More than 40 organizations representing numerous commodity and agricultural groups, including the American Farm Bureau and the National Farmers Union, urged the completion of a final version of the 2008 Farm Bill prior to the expiration of the 2002 Farm Bill authorities on March 15, 2008. As one of the signators of the letters to the leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees supporting this action, the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) agrees that the new Farm Bill must not shortchange American agriculture.
"The administration is insisting on policy provisions that were considered and rejected by both the Senate and the House committees. Both of your committees worked diligently to craft thoughtful and balanced legislation, and we strongly believe conference negotiations should remain within the boundaries set by these two bills. Our organizations will not support legislation that is inadequate in protecting the future of American farmers and ranchers," stated the signators in their correspondence.
"Upon review, the signing organizations believe the framework negotiated between the House committee leadership and the administration is seriously under-funded. The Commodity Title has already experienced a 60-percent decrease in baseline spending. To strain the safety net for American agriculture with a further $6.5 billion cut is excessive. While the administration is demanding that a bill be written with only $6 billion in offsets, we believe that providing less than $12.5 billion in additional funding will require the farmer safety net to bear the unfair burden of paying for increases in spending in other areas of the bill.
"It is easy for some to say that, in these times of good prices, the safety net for agriculture can or should be weakened. However, we should learn from the past. Markets move. During the life of the 1996 Farm Bill, generally good prices in 1995-1996 quickly turned to poor prices in 1999 and beyond. Combined with the dramatic increases in farm input prices already faced by agriculture producers today, a downturn in commodity costs could prove disastrous for American agriculture. For this reason, it is imperative that prices today not be used as a justification to erode the future safety net for agriculture."
The letters to the committees were delivered just days after Chairman Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte (Va.) of the House Committee on Agriculture sent to the Senate Agriculture Committee their concept paper for a Farm Bill spending framework developed and supported by the administration. The House proposal provides a $6 billion increased in spending over the baseline but makes drastic cuts in farm programs, policy, research and energy.
Peterson and Goodlatte have stated that over the past several weeks, they have been working with the administration to arrive at a bill that can pass Congress with bipartisan support and that they believe the President will sign. For this reason, they developed a basic framework designed to accomplish that goal cutting, identifying roughly $6 billion of reforms.
Peterson insists that he is not committed to the provisions in the framework, but it was necessary to get discussions with the Senate started. The letter and framework have been received by the Senate Agriculture Committee but were not warmly embraced. A series of House-Senate meetings have since occurred and will continue into next week when Congress leaves for the President's Day recess. Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33