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The Farm Bill Conversation Continues

The Farm Bill Conversation Continues

From exporters to specialty crop producers, there's a range of thought out there about how the 2012 Farm Bill should look.

Note: Late Tuesday night, the Senate Ag Committee announced that the Wednesday hearing for the farm bill mark up has been postponed. The new date for the markup hearing has not been set.

With the Senate Ag Committee will eventually meet to mark up its version of the 2012 Farm Bill and as the discussion of the new bill nears, more groups have laid out their issues, hopes and dreams for the final document. Of course, as the Senate is moving ahead, but the House is still crafting its version.

The list of wants and needs from everyone involved from food programs to crop producers brings an array of thoughts, ideas and opinions.

MORE VOICES: A range of groups have their own ideas of how the new farm bill should look.

A coalition of food aid groups is asking that the Senate expand use of local and regional procurement when determining the definition of food aid. The rising need to have cash used to buy local foodstuffs, and how those programs have succeeded is driving the idea. The coalition, which includes American Jewish World Service, Bread for the World, CARE and Church World Service, sent a letter to the committee asking for several considerations.

The chief consideration is monetization, the support of food aid with non-food resources (mostly cash) used in the local market to support food aid programs. Long a challenge for the farm bill, the group notes that success in the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program shows the idea works, and asks that the same considerations be given over in the Title II program. However, the group notes that monetization of aid should "be curtailed in instances where substantial cost recovery cannot be obtained."

For specialty crop producers, continued investment in programs initiated with the 2008 Farm Bill are top of mind. The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance says the proposed Senate version "includes support for key specialty crop industry priorities such as research, pest and disease mitigation, trade, nutrition and other programs that enhance the ability of specialty crop producers to be competitive and meet the needs of American consumers."

Meanwhile, an ag export coalition sent a letter to Senate Ag Committee members urging the Committee to maintain funding for USDA export programs. The group called or Market Access Program funding of no less than $200 million annually and the Foreign Market Development program to have no less than $34.5 million - which is the same funding level of the current farm bill.

The Senate farm bill draft does maintain funding at that level, but that's before the markup begins today. The export coalition points out that MAP and FMD are distinct programs administered by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service that address different aspects of export market development. The programs bring together non-profit U.S. agricultural trade associations, farmer cooperatives, non-profit state-regional trade groups, small businesses and USDA to develop results-oriented, strategic plans and share the costs of implementing them to support the U.S. agricultural industry's international marketing.

More groups are chiming in ahead of today's hearing. The Senate version of the farm bill would cut $26 billion over 10 years from a number of programs, further cuts will be part of the hearing discussions.

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