Ag Policy Blog

Peterson: Next Farm Bill Could Be Last

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson grabbed some attention Monday when he suggested to National Grange members that the current farm bill being debated in Congress could be the last.

In a phone interview Tuesday, the Minnesota Democrat said he has explained in the past that farm and nutrition policy could largely operate on cruise control if the safety net were shifted more to crop insurance.

"This is not something new. I've been saying this since I was chairman," Peterson said. "I said when I was chairman that in five years we might only have crop insurance, maybe 10 years."

Peterson explained crop insurance doesn't need a farm bill because it's permanently authorized. Until 2008, crop insurance wasn't even part of the farm bill, but handled in separate legislation. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program also has permanent authorization. Some of the major conservation programs also have permanent authorization, Peterson said.

"So, given the difficulty we are having here, I can see the scenario where we just don't get it done," he said.

Peterson notes half the House wasn't in office when Congress passed the 2008 farm bill. In fact, more than 40% of the House members have served less than three years.

"There is a question of whether we are going to have enough votes to pass it," Peterson said. "Nobody knows. Nobody has whipped it."

Peterson told National Grange members that some Republican members of Congress have told him "the high water mark" of Republicans who would back the farm bill is 150. Once again, a wing of the GOP would like to see more than the $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP. At the same time, it will be a challenge mustering support among House Democrats who see the SNAP cuts as too high.

While the Hill newspaper reported Democrats in the Senate believe passing a farm bill could bolster their chances in rural America, Peterson said he doesn't think that's necessarily the case in the House. "Farmers are generally going to vote Republican and hope people like me get them a Democratic farm bill," he said.

Peterson noted the farm bill didn't help former Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who lost re-election in 2010 despite being chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and being a strong advocate for southern farmers.

While Peterson said he hasn't gotten a firm date on when the farm bill will come to the floor, the speculation around Washington aggies is that the House will debate the bill the week of June 17. Peterson said passage becomes more difficult if legislation doesn't get passed before the August break. "If we don't get the bill done this summer or early this fall, if we get into next year it's going to be very difficult to get it done in an election year," he said.

While Democrats might not get much credit if the bill passes, they wouldn't get the blame if it fails, either. "I think if the bill fails to pass the House, that will be laid at the feet of Republicans."

When asked if he plans to run for re-election, Peterson, who turns 69 later this month, said he continues raising money. There has been a lot of speculation Peterson could choose to retire. He indicated he is leaning that way.

"If I was leaning towards retirement, they have fixed 96% of that with their behavior around here," Peterson said.

(A spokeswoman for Peterson called to clarify his comments and assert that Peterson is inclined NOT to retire because of Republican behavior.)

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN


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melvin meister
6/11/2013 | 7:07 AM CDT
For agroup of people who are against packer feeding ban ,gipsa reform rules , you might ask yourselves if JBS feeding and slaugtering cattle and Chinese owning our hog production and processing is smart or is the NCBA just using you or what. Stop complaining about the grain producer who has become smart enough to protect and promote their own industry with ethanol ,a grea fuel and great livestock feed also.
John Olson
6/9/2013 | 3:35 PM CDT
Apparently Zingula you are unaware of the current soybean prices and how that affects the poor in the world. Prices in Mozambique are around $22 per bushel. See Supporting and promoting government income targeting schemes that place your smaller and poorer neighbors at a competitive financial disadvantage would hardly be considered acts of kindness. For government to guarantee that the largest farmers can insure the greatest probability of the greatest profitability for minimal cost is insane. Government is stealing from smaller farmers a fair and equal opportunity to compete. Such schemes are vile, unAmerican, and malicious.
Aaron Cross
6/6/2013 | 12:41 PM CDT
You are right Jarrod, but you forgot annual forage that is coming out for 2014. I myself buy the PRF for my ranch and then top it off with private weather insurance for my pastures on top of the prf.
John Olson
6/6/2013 | 9:40 AM CDT
When congress removes fear of failure from certain sectors of the ag economy with mindless safety net income/investment guaranteeing schemes, irrational exuberance becomes a dominant feature in those sectors. Other sectors not deemed as worthy by a corrupt pandering congress are financially harmed be these malicious acts of congress as they attempt to compete for land resources for their farming operations.
Jarrod Bennett
6/6/2013 | 7:57 AM CDT
Federal Crop Insurance plans for livestock growers: PRF, LRP, LGM.
Curt Zingula
6/6/2013 | 6:37 AM CDT
Fear mongering is a despicable act John! Corn prices declined this week due to more than adequate world supplies of corn. Corn exports, including DDGs from the U.S. increased from 2001 to 2011. It's hard to take someone seriously when they try to b.s. me! The best revenue insurance a beef producer can obtain would be to spend time and effort on maintaining a market that the vegan and animal rights people intend to destroy, rather than trashing your "commodity neighbors". Don't expect Congress to bail you on that one!
John Olson
6/5/2013 | 9:43 AM CDT
We have been blessed with a supply of petroleum resources that seems to be ever growing as more exploration is pursued. Yet ethanol fanatics are determined to starve the world's poor and expand the ever growing numbers of Americans and non Americans on foodstamps.
Mike Estadt
6/5/2013 | 9:18 AM CDT
I had the same conversation with my legislator nearly a year ago in Ohio. His response sounded as if the Farm Bureau and Ohio Corn Growers had crafted the response. The farmers need a safety net. I guess my 70 cows doesn't make me a farmer and I don't need a safety net. I survive on my management skills. Something a lot of my commodity neighbors gave up to crop input suppliers years ago.
John Olson
6/4/2013 | 10:24 PM CDT
May 25, 2013 12:00 am � Alan Guebert(0) Comments It was evident from the hello that the South Dakota rancher had practiced his pitch before he dialed my office. �I�m (so and so),� he said in a clipped, clear voice, �an independent cow-calf producer west of the (Missouri) river with 500 cows. I�m calling with one question: Where do I go to sign up for revenue-based cow-calf insurance?� I�m sorry, did you say �revenue-based cow-calf insurance?� �I did,� replied the cowboy. �You know, like revenue-based federal crop insurance. Farmers get that now and they�ll get even more when Congress passes the Farm Bill, right?� Probably, yes, but I�m sure you know there�s no such thing as revenue-based, federally subsidized cow-calf insurance. A long, tired sigh came across 750 miles of cellular ether. �Well, yeah,� he said finally, �but somebody needs to ask why taxpayers are guaranteeing my neighbors $300 and $400 an acre profit through federal crop insurance to farm ranchland when I can�t buy any insurance � let alone subsidized insurance � to lock-in one-tenth of that by doing the land right and ranching it.� It was my turn to sigh. No argument; you�re right. �Being right won�t mean much when my neighbors rent or buy the land I rent to plant more corn and beans while you, me and taxpayers buy most of the insurance to guarantee them a profit and me a smaller ranch.� No, it sure won�t. That was late March and this is late May and being right still won�t matter because each version of the 2013 Farm Bill that cleared its respective Congressional ag committee earlier this month includes expanded versions of today�s generous federal crop insurance programs. In fact, some of the liveliest debates on the bills centered on how to grow the federal crop insurance program while keeping ag outsiders � mostly environmental, nutrition and conservation groups � from either placing restrictions on the expanding program or poaching some of its funds. Each bill is far from any finish line, though. The Senate bill (soon to be voted on by the full Senate), for example, includes compromise wording that links conservation compliance with the new, bigger insurance program. The House Farm Bill does not. But the Senate language carries a distinctive only-in-Washington ring: In return for agreeing to tie the subsidies to conservation guidelines, a standard in almost every Farm Bill since 1939, the committee agreed to eliminate any provision that would cut insurance subsidies to farmers with more than $750,000 adjusted gross incomes. Sweet as that is � essentially, continue to do what you�re already doing and get even better coverage � some Farm Bill watchers now suspect the conservation part of the deal won�t survive the Senate-House conference to marry the two bills. They see the House version � no conservation compliance, no limits � gaining traction. If so, my ranching pal�s future will sport more tractors and combines than cows and calves. Landlords and farmers, unleashed from any conservation requirement and able to buy cheap crop insurance that virtually assures a profit, will plow under more grass to plant more corn and beans. But even if the Senate�s conservation linkage remains in the final bill, the rancher is headed for an almost equally woeful future because farm program benefits, be they direct payments or insurance subsidies, end up being capitalized in land. That�s the biggest reason his cows and calves can�t compete with corn and beans now; the land has been made too valuable by the federal crop insurance guarantees paid for, in part, by you and me. In fact, that puts you and me in the business of pretty much putting this rancher out of business as we underwrite the expansion of an already sweetly-subsidized government program. And here I thought one of us was for limited government.