House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson this week outlined his plans to begin the process of writing the next Farm Bill as early as this spring during a meeting of livestock and commodity groups including the American Sheep Industry Association.
Peterson said he is serious about beginning the process with a series of hearings in Washington, D.C., as early as April and May followed by a series of Farm Bill field hearings around the country later this summer. He then hopes to actively begin the drafting of the next Farm Bill in the fall for it to be ready for what he believes will be a major budget reconciliation bill in 2011.
"We have written two Farm Bills in the past during a reconciliation bill and they were not the best because we were not ready. It is my goal that if we get pulled into a reconciliation bill next year, we will be ready," said the chairman. "We are working the numbers right now with everything on the table. We will work off the existing baseline and are not going to ask for an increase.
"I hope to meet with every group and industry and say here is your baseline funding. If the program you currently have does not provide the safety-net you need, come back to me with an alternative but make sure it is within the budget numbers you have for your commodity."
Peterson wants input and does not want the next Farm Bill to be written from the top down. The information he is requesting from the commodity organizations will also be requested from the conservation groups, food stamps, rural development and other interested parties.
"After you have seen how much of the budget baseline is allocated to your concerns, I want to hear from you if you think those funds should be spent differently," concluded Peterson.