Tulsa World: Farm bill process kicks off in Iowa

May 01, 2010
In The News

DES MOINES, Iowa — A hearing on the new federal farm bill Friday in Des Moines kicked off the arduous process of writing a mammoth bill that covers everything from farm credit to food stamps.

The current $284 billion bill, approved in 2008, expires in September 2012, and members of the House Agriculture Committee hope to avoid disagreements that delayed passage last time.

Hearings are scheduled to continue through May 18 in Nampa, Idaho; Fresno, Calif.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Morrow, Ga.; Troy, Ala.; Lubbock, Texas; and Sioux Falls, S.D.

"During these field hearings, I want to hear from farmers and ranchers, not only about what has worked well in the past, but also whether the current farm programs offer the best safety net possible for producers," said committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

Peterson told the roughly 100 people at the hearing that it would be a long, difficult process to craft a bill that takes on so many issues.

Rep. Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla., the committee’s ranking minority member, said his goal is to provide the tools farmers need "to do what you do best" — that is, produce the world’s "safest, most abundant, most affordable food supply."

"I think it’s extremely important to hear from you about what is working, what is not working and what changes we can make," he said.

Lucas said he hopes to help producers avoid what he sees as negative effects of environmental regulations that hinder their ability to market crops.

About 75 percent of the bill’s funding goes toward food nutrition programs, such as food stamps, but it also supports commodity crops, horticulture, livestock, conservation, trade, agricultural research, farm credit, rural development, energy and forestry.

Some of that support comes in the form of controversial direct payments to farmers.

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