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House votes to suspend farm bill base acre provision

The House passed legislation supported by both parties that would suspend for the 2008 and 2009 crop years a farm bill provision that required producers to have a minimum of 10-base acres to receive program benefits.

Passage of H.R. 6849 Wednesday was needed to stop USDA’s plan to deny farm program benefits to hundreds of thousands of producers nationwide by refusing to allow for the aggregation of small base acreage, supporters said.

“The USDA’s decision to eliminate such a large number of base acres could affect hundreds of thousands of producers all across this country,” said Rep. Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

“Their selective interpretation of the farm bill is doing no favors for America’s farmers and ranchers, who are rightly concerned that the department is ignoring the Congress’ clearly stated intent. With passage of this bill, we are making clear to farm country that the farm bill will be implemented as Congress intended.”

“This bill will ensure that thousands of farmers will receive the benefits that Congress intended for them to receive,” said Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte of Virginia.

“This legislation will correct USDA’s narrow interpretation of the 10-base-acre-provision and provide security for thousands of farmers who rent or lease smaller tracks of land for their farms,” said General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Chairman Bob Etheridge of North Carolina, the original sponsor of the legislation.

“H.R. 6849 will restore the intent of Congress by allowing the small farmers who provide food for the nation’s table to receive the payments they deserve for their work.”

Etheridge said USDA earlier published a notice stating their intent to “not approve requests for farm combination reconstitutions of farms having base acres of 10 acres or less,” despite farm bill report language stating that base acreages could be aggregated to allow for farm program eligibility if the sum of acres is over 10.

The cost of H.R. 6849 is offset with spending reductions in order to meet Paygo requirements.

Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., have introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

Previous committee action on H.R. 6849 and a summary of the bill’s provisions can be found on the House Agriculture Committee website.

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