|By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
DENVER, Colo. — Our next farm bill will be written by the U.S. Congress and not based on World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, Chairman Bob Goodlatte, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, told the National Farmers Union Convention.
This was at a roundtable discussion with four other members of the House Ag committee and they all agreed with that.
Goodlatte, R-Va., Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Rep. Ste-phanie Herseth, D-S.D., and Rep. Jerry Moran R-Kan., also agreed on the need to protect the farm safety net.
Concerning the farm bill, Goodlatte said his first commitment as ag committee chair two years ago was to make sure that this current Farm Bill went through to its completion date which is Sept 30, 2007, he said.
“We’ve had to fend off, with Collin Peterson, a number of challenges to keeping the farm bill intact,” Goodlatte said.
“Why you don’t want it altered in the middle is that farming is a high risk business. You can’t control the weather prices. You should be able to count on your government for a consistent policy for the duration of that Farm Bill,” Goodlatte said.
The writing of the next farm bill is going to be affected by the availability of U.S. resources, Goodlatte said. When the last farm bill was written, there were trade surpluses. “We’re not in that situation again,” he said. “Money is going to be tight. We know that we are dramatically affected by international trade.
“The United States is the world’s largest exporter of agricultural products,” he said. “But today we’re also the world’s largest importer of ag products. The trade surpluses we enjoyed 10 years ago are nearly gone.”
That is because of European protectionism, he said. Their tariffs are 2.5 times the size of this country’s and their export subsidies are 40 times as high. “That’s got to change,” Goodlatte said.
“There has to be a level playing field in ag trade,” he said. “They don’t see it that way and we’re going to have to figure out how to respond.”
Moran argued the farm bill should represent farmers - not trade negotiators.
“We need to write a farm bill and then require our negotiators to defend and support policy that we develop,” Moran said. The representatives also agreed that the current crop insurance program is insufficient to meet the needs of farmers.
Peterson said, “We tried to get crop insurance fixed so we can take care of people when they have a problem. I don’t think we’re ever going to get where we need to be with crop insurance. It’s very difficult to craft it in a way that works.”
Peterson has been working to introduce a bill for a permanent disaster program. It would be part of the farm bill that would combine with crop insurance.
“We do an ad hoc disaster every year,” he said. “We’ve done that every year for the last eight years. Crop insurance is not realistic. I’d like to have a permanent program.”
Everyone at the table nodded their agreement when Peterson said that crafting the farm bill had to be a non-partisan effort.
“We aren’t going to be able to pass a farm bill if we don’t do that,” he said. “There aren’t enough of us left in rural America for us to be fighting with each other. We’ve got to figure out a way to come together.”
This farm news was published in the March 15, 2006 issue of Farm World.