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Thune: Dozens of Agriculture Groups Reject Recent House Farm Bill Proposal

More than 40 Leading Ag Organizations Sign Letter Critical of Latest House Farm Bill Proposal

February 15, 2008

Washington, D.C. —  Today Senator John Thune made the following comments regarding the release of a letter signed by more than 40 leading agriculture organizations criticizing the latest House Farm Bill proposal:

"I applaud these groups for speaking up on behalf of the family farmers and ranchers they represent. The latest House Farm Bill proposal is flawed and would not be good for South Dakota.

"I cannot support the latest House Farm Bill proposal for the following reasons:

  • It takes away all mandatory funding for the permanent disaster program in the Senate-passed Farm bill;

  • It includes an ineffective crop revenue program that is based on national yields, which very likely will never benefit South Dakota;

  • It eliminates Direct Payments in the 9th year - 2016;

  • It negates my successful amendment in the Senate Agriculture Committee, which keeps the Loan Deficiency Payment safety net intact;

  • It cuts the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage cap without providing any additional tools, like making rental rates more competitive, to keep CRP a healthy and viable tool for farmers who wish to use it to exercise sound land stewardship.

  • "The Senate Farm Bill passed with an overwhelming bipartisan and veto-proof majority (79-14) and it should be the vehicle used as the basis for a Conference report that could be signed by the President. It is unacceptable for the House Democrats to delay this process any further by refusing to appoint conferees, and instead attempt to negotiate the Farm Bill without the U.S. Senate.

    "The Senate has named its Farm Bill Conferees and has been ready to begin the Conference process for weeks now. It is time for the House to take responsibility for its inaction and inability to come up with a veto-proof Farm Bill and complete its work by coordinating with the Senate. The last thing we should do as we work to pass a Farm bill is undercut important provisions for South Dakota that were included in both the House and Senate passed."

    Following are several excerpts from various agriculture groups against the latest House Farm Bill proposal:

    The American Soybean Association (ASA) argues that the new version of the farm bill proposal announced yesterday is damaging for soybean and corn farmers as well as biodiesel producers. The organization's president, John Hoffman said, "Worse yet, the [House] plan makes changes to the loan deficiency payment program that dramatically weaken the income safety net and disadvantage soybean, corn and other feed grains, and wheat farmers compared to current law."
    The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) today called on the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate to make the necessary improvements to the revenue program outlined in the House conference proposal. NCGA President Ron Litterer said, "[The House bill] simply fails to address the changes in our industry, the realities of today's marketplace, and the increasing levels of risk farmers are facing well into the future."
    The National Farmers Union (NFU) was also disappointed, said the group's president, Tom Buis. "[The House] proposal's lack of a permanent disaster program ignores the single biggest hole in the safety net," Buis said in a statement released Thursday. "This must be restored. NFU strongly supports the efforts of Senators Max Baucus and Kent Conrad to ensure that a permanent disaster program is in place and adequately funded."
    The letter sent to the Senate and House Agriculture Committee Chairmen and Ranking Members is pasted below.

    February 14, 2008

    The Honorable Tom Harkin
    Senate Committee on Agriculture,Nutrition and Forestry
    328A Russell Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC 20510

    The Honorable Saxby Chambliss
    Ranking Member
    Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
    328A Russell Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC 20510

    The Honorable Collin Peterson
    House Committee on Agriculture
    1301 Longworth House Office Building
    Washington, DC 20515

    The Honorable Bob Goodlatte
    Ranking Member
    House Committee on Agriculture
    1301 Longworth House Office Building
    Washington, DC 20515

    Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members:

    We appreciate the efforts of Chairman Peterson and Ranking Member Goodlatte to move
    the farm bill process forward. Everyone is in agreement that initiating conference on the
    farm bill as quickly as possible is important to American agriculture.

    Upon review, the undersigned organizations believe the framework negotiated between
    the House committee leadership and the administration is seriously under-funded. The
    Commodity Title has already experienced a 60 percent decrease in baseline spending. To
    strain the safety net for American agriculture with a further $6.5 billion cut is excessive.
    While the administration is demanding that a bill be written with only $6 billion in
    offsets, we believe that providing less than $12.5 billion in additional funding will require
    the farmer safety net to bear the unfair burden of paying for increases in spending in other
    areas of the bill.

    It is easy for some to say that, in these times of good prices, the safety net for agriculture
    can or should be weakened. However, we should learn from the past. Markets move.
    During the life of the 1996 Farm Bill, generally good prices in 1995-1996 quickly turned
    to poor prices in 1999 and beyond. Combined with the dramatic increases in farm input
    prices already faced by agriculture producers today, a downturn in commodity costs
    could prove disastrous for American agriculture. For this reason, it is imperative that
    prices today not be used as a justification to erode the future safety net for agriculture.

    Additionally, the administration is insisting on including policy provisions that were
    considered and rejected by both the House and the Senate committees, and which are
    disconcerting to production agriculture. Both of your committees worked diligently to
    craft thoughtful and balanced legislation, and we strongly believe conference negotiations
    should remain within the boundaries set by these two bills.

    We look forward to working with you to continue to craft a conference report that meets
    the needs of rural America.


    Alabama Peanut Producers Association
    American Agriculture Movement
    American Beekeeping Federation
    American Corn Growers Association
    American Cotton Shippers Association
    American Farm Bureau Federation
    American Honey Producers Association
    American Sheep Industry Association
    American Soybean Association
    American Sugar Alliance
    Atlantic Cotton Association
    Crop Insurance Professionals Association
    Farm Credit Council
    Florida Peanut Producers Association
    Georgia Peanut Commission
    National Association of Farmer Elected Committees
    National Association of Wheat Growers
    National Barley Growers Association
    National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
    National Cotton Council
    National Farmers Organization
    National Farmers Union
    National Women Involved in Farm Economics
    National Sorghum Producers
    National Sunflower Association
    North Carolina Peanut Growers Association
    Northeast States Association for Agriculture Stewardship
    Peanut Growers Cooperative Marketing Association
    Ricebelt Warehouses
    Southern Cotton Association
    Southern Peanut Farmers Federation
    Southwest Council of Agribusiness
    Texas Cotton Association
    United Dairymen of Arizona
    US Canola Association
    US Rice Producers Association
    USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council
    USA Rice Federation
    Virginia Peanut Growers Association
    Western Cotton Shippers Association
    Western Peanut Growers
    cc: Senate Conferees
    House Agriculture Committee