July 31, 2014

Senator Grassley says key provisions of Farm Bill weakened

After months of debate, a new five-year farm bill emerged from the House-Senate conference committee on Monday and it may go to a vote in the full House as soon as tomorrow. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, says key elements of the legislation he authored about payment limits and other reforms have been “watered down” to the point they will have little or no impact.

Grassley says, “The chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, chairing the conference committee, decided he didn’t like it because it wasn’t good for Southern agriculture, so he just simply neutered them, effectively.” Representative Frank Lucas, a Republican from Oklahoma, chairs the panel and Grassley says he’s very dissatisfied with actions Lucas has taken in the $500-billion bill.

According to Grassley, the new farm bill contains target prices and other safety nets for rice, cotton and peanuts that are better than the current farm bill. “There’s still things in there he wants you to believe that he’s doing what I want done, but it’s got so many conditions, so many loopholes,” he says. The new farm bill, according to Grassley, is “bad for agriculture, it’s bad for taxpayers who are worried about the debt, it’s bad for our credibility with trading partners, and it’s bad for the future of farm programs.”

One provision of Grassley’s that was removed would have limited the number of managers who could benefit from individual farming operations to one. With that element gone, Grassley says the bill will lead to tremendous waste. Grassley says, “One farming operation had 16 managers and there’s so many loopholes, every third cousin of every farming operation is going to benefit from the farm program.”

Grassley says a select few members of Congress are allowing the farm program to be “exploited by putting wealthy, so-called farmers ahead of small- and medium-sized farms and young and beginning farmers. This is an example of why Congress has a 12-percent approval rating.” Grassley says the legislation he included in the farm bill had been overwhelmingly approved months ago by members of both parties in both chambers. “The Congressional Budget Office said that my amendment would save $387-million,” Grassley says, “so here’s $387-million going out the door because it doesn’t quite fit in to Southern agriculture.”

The document is 957-pages long. Grassley says he hasn’t read the entire farm bill yet and isn’t ready to say if he’ll vote for or against it. While it’s expected to go to a vote in the House on Wednesday, it may not go before the Senate until next week.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, released a statement on the farm bill’s progress, saying: “The bipartisan, bicameral agreement will help to reduce the federal budget deficit while strengthening the economy in rural areas and nationally, providing future certainty and income protection to the agricultural sector, conserving natural resources, promoting healthier nutrition, and boosting renewable energy.”