Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, hopes to bring the farm bill forward for discussion in the Senate Ag committee he chairs this week. Harkin is proposing a bill that contains just over 18-billion dollars in funding, but requires some cutbacks.
Harkin says he’s calling for a modest reduction in direct payments to farmers of four-point-five billion dollars, while still keeping a good safety net for farmers. The direct payments help farmers in years where prices for commodities drop.
Harkin says the issue of payments to farmers is going to generate some debate. He says it’s generally accepted that some funding will be cut from direct payments, and the question is how much. Harkin believes the plan he has come up with provides a better safety net for farmers than the plan currently in place. While farmers anxiously watch the farm bill negotiations, Harkin says the bill is important to others too.
Harkin says the bill includes a lot of different things that affects every American. He hopes the bill will provide provisions for cleaner water, economic development and more production of biofuels among other things. Harkin says they have to wait on a finance committee hearing, so they may not be able to move the bill out of the Ag committee until after the Columbus Day recess.