Incoming House Agriculture Committee chair Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says that although there may be less money available for the next farm bill than for the 2002 bill and less money may go towards commodity support, farmers should still get the help they need.
Peterson, incoming House Budget Committee chair Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., and next year's Senate Agriculture Committee Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, spoke to reporters in a scheduled meeting.
Peterson and Harkin have both stressed the importance of supporting renewable energy in the next farm bill. Harkin wants stronger incentives for the development, production, and use of a wider variety of biobased products, and both Harkin and Peterson want to help the U.S. ethanol industry to transform from corn-based production to using cellulosic feedstocks such as corn stover and switchgrass.
"I think the biggest issue is: 'Are we going to have the money to put into the energy area that we need?'" Peterson says.
The American Farm Bureau Federation raised concerns about the farm bill channeling money away from the commodity program and towards conservation and nutrition programs.
"A new CBO baseline to be released in March 2007 is expected to reduce the commodity baseline, to $57 billion over six years - barely more than half of the $99 billion Congress was willing to spend on commodity programs during the past six years," AFBF says.
Peterson confirmed the possibility of less crop subsidy support, but says he thinks farmers will still get enough help.
Harkin created the Conservation Security Program in the 2002 farm bill, a program which gives producers incentives to adopt conservation practices, and with Peterson's support, this program will likely be a high priority.
Both Harkin and Peterson have pledged to push the bill's timetable in order to complete it before the 2002 farm bill expires on Sept. 30, 2007.
Harkin and USDA Secretary Mike Johanns are scheduled to meet on farm bill priorities this week.