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Corn growers would tweak House version

Texas and other U.S. corn growers have reservations about the farm bill the House of Representatives passed recently, but they hope to get some of their concerns addressed when the Senate takes up debate in the coming weeks.

“As a whole, the National Corn Growers did not fully endorse the House bill,” says David Gibson, executive director of the Texas Corn Producers Board, in Lubbock.

“We did work hard to defeat conservation amendments,” he says.

Another primary concern, Gibson says, is payment yield set too low. “In areas like Dalhart and Dumas, historical yield will be paid at 90 bushels per acre. In reality, with improved technology the past few years, actual yields are closer to 200 bushels per acre.

“That's a significant concern not addressed in the House bill. We hope to get more attention in the Senate.”

Gibson says corn growers are concerned that recent statements from both Senate agricultural committee leaders and from the Bush administration indicate potential for reduced funding. A proposal by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., ranking member of the committee, would provide only $25 billion for farm programs and for only five years. The House bill provides more than $73 billion for 10 years.

As the Senate completes the task of writing a farm bill, Gibson says, funding proposals will vary from Lugar's low proposal to something a bit higher from the Bush administration “but still less than the House bill.”

Gibson says farm interests from the Northern Plains want significant loan increases. “Southern senators tend to lean toward the House legislation,” he says.

The National Corn Growers Association faces a tough balancing act trying to support the best proposal possible for their constituents.

“We have different needs across the country,” he says. “In fact, I understand the dilemma because the needs of a Texas Panhandle corn farmers differ from a corn farmer in the Coastal Bend. In Texas crop selection, climate and market opportunities vary widely from one part of the state to the other.”

Gibson says Texas corn growers need a strong farm safety net. “More than 50 percent of Texas row crop income the past few years has come from government payments,” he says. “They need consistency.”

Gibson says critics look at money going to farmers and misunderstand why a few appear to receive the bulk of benefits.

“Critics don't consider the acreage involved,” he says. “Also, larger operations have significantly more expense and risks. Agriculture is a key component of life.”

Gibson believes the Senate will act quickly to enact new farm legislation. “Momentum is high for the Senate to act before the end of the year, before the recess,” he says.

“We hope to see legislation that will maintain the funding level approved in the House. The Senate is more conservation-minded, but the potential for taking significant amounts of funds from commodities and putting them into conservation programs seems to be less. The trend appears to be turning back toward commodity funding.

“The Senate still may increase conservation spending but we feel like commodity support will be close to the level approved in the House bill.”

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