2007 Farm Bill
House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) announced on Monday, January 23, that the first two full-Committee field hearings reviewing the 2002 Farm Bill will be held on February 6, in Fayetteville, N.C., and on February 7, in Auburn, Ala. The current Farm Bill is set to expire in 2007 and the field hearings will be part of a series of hearings the Committee will convene in the coming year.
The House Committee intends to hear from all those involved in agricultural policy including farmers, ranchers, agribusiness, advocacy groups, and government officials. The hearings will solicit feedback about what aspects of the 2002 Farm Bill are working and what needs to be changed. The 2002 Farm Bill included ten separate titles: commodity programs, conservation, trade, nutrition programs, credit, rural development, research, forestry, energy and a miscellaneous category that included marketing issues, biotechnology, etc. and the Committee will review every title in anticipation of writing the next farm bill. The Senate Agriculture Committee, as of this writing, had not yet made any announcement regarding a schedule for hearings on the Farm Bill.
According to the latest reports, there is no timetable for when a proposed 2007 Farm Bill will be introduced in either the House or the Senate. For now, the only certainty is that the 2002 Farm Bill will sunset at the end of September in 2007. The House Agriculture Committee announced that it plans to hold approximately ten field hearings across rural America during the course of 2006 and introduce their version of the Farm Bill early in 2007. The Senate Agriculture staff is reporting they may hold four or five regional hearings this year and they could introduce small bills targeting specific provisions, but any such bills would only be offered as trial balloons for next year. The Administration is reportedly still seeking to close loopholes that allow some large corporate farms to collect millions of dollars in federal assistance, especially in light of promises made in December at the WTO negotiations in Hong Kong. Any White House effort to cut subsidies to large agribusinesses will likely trigger a very divisive fight in Congress between regional farm groups. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has repeatedly introduced a payment limitation bill and he will likely try to push his bill again this year, although it is more likely that any payment limitation debate will occur after the 2006 elections and once the 2007 Farm Bill has been introduced.
The USCCB continues to advocate on behalf of farm policies that enable our nation to maintain an agricultural system of diverse, family-owned and operated farms. Policies and programs are needed that encourage rural development, promoting and maintaining the culture and values of rural communities. These should include policies that encourage a wide range of economic development strategies, especially by fostering the entrepreneurial spirit of rural people and investing in their education and training. They also should include policies that promote and support farming, support the efforts of farmers to establish co-ops and other cooperative ventures, and encourage widespread diversity in farm ownership. Limited government resources for subsidies and other forms of support should be targeted to small and moderate-sized farms, especially minority-owned farms, to help them through difficult times caused by changes in global agricultural markets or weather patterns that destroy crops. Agricultural subsidies often go to a few large producers, while smaller family farms struggle to survive. Rather than simply rewarding production, which can lead to surpluses and falling prices, government resources should reward environmentally sound and sustainable farming practices. Because of rising land prices, the cost of sophisticated equipment, and the difficulty of making a living, government resources are also needed to help new farmers and ranchers enter the field of agriculture. (From 2002 Pastoral Statement, For I was Hungry And You Gave Me Food)
The Agricultural Jobs, Opportunities and Benefits Act of 2005 (AgJobs Bill) was introduced last year in the Senate as S.359 and in the House of Representatives as H.R. 884.The AgJOBS Bill was substantially the same as the version introduced in 2003, which the USCCB supports. Senators Larry Craig (R.-Idaho) and Edward Kennedy (D.-MA), submitted the legislation as an amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill that the Senate debated during mid-April. To obtain a vote on the AgJOBS amendment, AgJOBS supporters had first to obtain 60 votes to prevent a filibuster that would end debate on AgJOBS. Unfortunately, supporters were only able to obtain 53 votes so the amendment was tabled indefinitely. However, the demonstration of a majority in support of AgJOBS was significant. In addition, it appears very possible to obtain 60 votes in the future because several Senators indicated that their opposition was largely based on adding an immigration amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill. The UFW and agribusiness groups supporting the bill, along with the Senators who lead the campaign, have vowed to continue to try to pass AgJOBS.
What You Can Do On The Farm Bill
Despite the fact that there is no specific bill yet, you can contact your Senators and Representatives on the Agriculture Committees and urge them to give priority to these concerns in the 2007 Farm Bill:
- Women and children who need adequate nutrition.
- Rural communities struggling to maintain their values and quality of life.
- Farmers and ranchers practicing responsible stewardship of their land and common waterways.
- Fully funding the Conservation Security Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, and the Value-Added Producer Grants Program.
For Further Information
Andy Rivas 202-541-3190; (fax) 202-541-3339; firstname.lastname@example.org Robert Gronski, NCRLC, 515-270-2634; email@example.com.