U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is laying out USDA's farm bill priorities this week. But given the current economic climate, and the efforts of the Congressional Super Committee tasked with finding more than $1.2 trillion in budget cuts, Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says USDA's leadership may not carry much weight. He says that he thinks there won't be time for the Administration to have much of an impact.
That's because the leaders of the Agriculture Committees Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Collin Peterson, D-Minn., have told the members of the Super Committee that they'll have a detailed set of 2012 Farm Bill policy suggestions aimed at achieving the $23 billion in savings they previously recommended by Nov. 1. Grassley believes it will mostly affect Title I, food stamps and perhaps conservation. His understanding is that programs outside those areas will be handled next year.
Grassley admits this is an unusual way to write a Farm Bill, but says it's necessary if you believe farmers should have a safety net.
"If we want it to be done right, those of us on the Agriculture Committee should at least get our suggestions to the committee," Grassley said. "If we don't, we could end up with a lot more than $23 billion cut out of farm programs and maybe have a program written in a way it wouldn't work. Also with the fiscal situation the way it is, if it goes over into next year we could end up maybe without any farm program at all."
Grassley says the people who know something about agriculture should write the Farm Bill rather than leaving it entirely to the Super Committee, even though that group will still have the final say.
Whatever the super committee decides, once they present a measure to the Congress, it must be voted up or down without amendment.