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Time rapidly dwindling for farm bill

Thirty working days — that’s all the time left before this year’s congressional session is scheduled to end, and prospects for a new farm bill are slipping fast.

With all that’s on Congress’ plate, the likelihood increases for some kind of extension of the 2002 farm, Kenneth Hood, Perthshire, Miss., farmer and former National Cotton Council chairman says.

“On Aug. 4, Congress leaves for a month, and when they come back there are only 21 working days on their calendar,” he said at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corporation at Grenada.

“There are still 13 appropriations bills they have to address, plus the continuing wrangle over Iraq. Every day that passes lessens the chances for getting a new farm bill done.”

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota “has indicated he wants to start work on the farm bill this week and get something drafted in the July 17-19 period,” Hood said.

“He’s said he doesn’t want major changes from the current law, and I think we could support most of his bill. But if it comes out of committee with amendments from Reps. Ron Kind, D-Wisc., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., that’s another story.

“We don’t want to have anything to do with Mr. Kind’s amendment — it would be a major blow to agriculture. It would cripple Mr. Peterson’s bill and would seriously harm cotton.”

With the tight working window left for this Congress, “I think we could see an extension of the current farm bill, with some modifications,” Hood said. “It probably would be thrown in with an omnibus appropriations bill.”

On the Senate side, he said, “It’s troubling to me that their ag committee has nothing in writing on a farm bill. They haven’t produced anything we can look at, that we can use for planning and discussion.

“But all the talk I hear isn’t good for cotton and rice — mostly taking dollars away from those two crops and giving them to other commodities.

“Personally,” Hood said, I think the three entity rule is in trouble, and generic certificates are likely to be a problem also.”

David Waide, president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, said he also feels Congress may end up extending the present farm law.

“There just aren’t enough votes to get something new to the floor in the time that’s left. I think we stand a better chance of trying to get something workable through an extension, rather than trying to rush through a new bill in such a short period of time.”

Hood said the southern delegation remains a key to favorable farm legislation. “We’ve got a lot of good, strong folks from the South helping us, and it would be awfully hard to get a bill out without those southern votes — if they stick together the way they did last time.

“Chairman Peterson has said if Congress doesn’t do something — either a new bill or an extension of the present bill — everything will revert to the 1947 farm law. That would mean we’d revert to parity, and I think we’d all like that.”

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