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ACGA sees Harkin farm bill as mixed bag

(Nov. 7, 2001 -- CropChoice news) -- The American Corn Growers Association (AGCA) has found the farm bill proposal submitted by Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, as a "mixed bag." ACGA president Keith Dittrich of Tilden, Neb. explained his organization could support some of the key components of the bill, but had reservation and concerns with the shortcomings of some of the other components.

"The fact that the bill offers slightly higher support rates for the major commodities than farmers presently have available, and better than the bill passed by the House of Representatives, is a big plus - but the support levels are just too low to provide the safety net America's farm families need," said Dittrich. We need support rates set at a level which reflects the cost of doing business in today's economy and the support should be indexed to reflect increases in the cost of doing business in years to come."

Dittrich said the corn growers supported the chairman on many components of his proposal, including:

  • A five-year bill as opposed to the House passed ten-year bill,
  • The increase in acreage allowed for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP),
  • The higher support, or loan, rates as explained above,
  • The authority to extend commodity loans,
  • Elimination of the one-percent interest surcharge imposed on farmers for CCC loans,
  • The method proposed to target benefits by limiting the amount of commodity a farmer is allowed to put under loan,
  • Allowing producers to update their planting and yield data for program purposes, and
  • Inclusion of a competition title and an energy title.

    Dittrich explained the major problem with the chairman's bill is that it does not provide enough financial or market support to allow farmers to survive in the present economy. "For all the improvements over current policy the chairman has included in his proposal, the bottom line is that it has major shortcomings," declared Dittrich. "We must improve the support rates and index them if we are going to keep America's farm families in the business of feeding and fueling America's freedom."

    Dittrich called upon Chairman Harkin to improve farm policy by passing ACGA's Family Farm Agriculture Recovery and Maintenance Act (F.A.R.M. Act). The act would improve market prices paid directly to farmers, while maintaining competitiveness. The proposal would offer a "Market Participation Loan" program with the loan rate set at an adequate level - approximately $3.15 per bushel for corn -- and eliminate direct government payments. The measure would give the Secretary of Agriculture discretion to reinstate the Farmer Owned Reserve and provide for a Strategic Energy Reserve for the nation's energy needs, such as ethanol and biodiesel. Other authority, which would be extended to the Secretary under the F.A.R.M. Act, would be to implement a voluntary, flexible fallow program.