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NCC responds to Grassley pledge

The NCC said family farmers are disappointed in Sen. Grassley’s announced intentions to pursue payment limitations similar to what he did in 2002. Sen. Grassley said in an interview this week that he was looking at introducing an amendment with a "hard cap" of $275,000-$300,000, probably in the 2004 agriculture appropriations bill.

Mark Williams, a cotton farmer from Texas and chairman of the American Cotton Producers, said Sen. Grassley’s attempt to change the farm law now would cause uncertainty among producers and destabilize the rural economy.

“Such a move would be unfortunate, especially at a time when the crop is well underway and Congress is focused on a number of critical trade issues,” the Texas producer said.

“Mid-stream changes in program eligibility rules will negate the benefits contained in the new farm bill and undermine farmers and their financial institutions in making long-term decisions,” Williams said. “The newly-enacted farm law does not need to be amended. “It provides a critically important safety net to cotton, grain and oilseed farmers in times of low prices.”

The Senate is expected to take up the FY04 agricultural appropriations bill when it returns from its August recess on Sept. 2. Once the Senate approves the spending plan, it must be resolved with the House appropriations bill, which contains no new language on payment limits.

“If it’s germane to the agriculture appropriations bill, I expect to pursue payment limitations similar to what I had last year,” Grassley told reporters during a telephone news conference. Last year’s amendment would have limited a farmer to $225,000 to $275,000 in farm program payments.

Grassley’s comments came as the Commission on the Application of Payment Limitations to Agriculture, a 12-member panel created by Congress to review the issue, prepares to release its report.

During a hearing at USDA in June, Commission members were told that lowering the payment limits would disrupt the operations of many producers and lead to increased production of corn and soybeans, the two largest crops in Grassley’s home state.

The Senate passed a payment limit amendment authored by Grassley and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-S.D., in its version of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. The amendment did not survive the farm bill conference report in its entirety, but the new law did include a $2.5 million means test on adjusted gross income for program recipients that Grassley proposed.


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