House Ag Chairman Discusses Farm Bill

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says the farm bill should keep money in the commodity title, but not add to it.

The 2007 Farm Bill's commodity title funding should stay as is, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Min., told reporters in a teleconference Thursday.

Some groups have called for cuts to commodity safety net spending, but Peterson says that argument is a tough sell since commodity outlays are down 43% since 2002.

The argument for moving money away from the commodity title often relates to the current high commodity prices, but Peterson says that to take away that support is to "set yourself up for a bailout when those prices go down."

"Nobody knows what will happen with these prices," Peterson says. He acknowledges current projections of continuing high prices, but adds that eventually, "I have no doubt farmers will overproduce and drive these prices down."

Although Peterson defends keeping money in the commodity title, he also wants to abide by budget restrictions. This means that more money won't go into the farm bill without help from offsets elsewhere - and any money that comes from offsets won't go towards commodities. "We're going to live with the money in the commodity title," he says.

Money gained from offsets would go instead to programs such as conservation, renewable fuels, rural development, and specialty crops. Conservation seems to have particularly gained influence for this farm bill - Peterson says conservation groups were on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying leaders in both parties, and that conservation interests have formed a broad coalition.

Peterson also says that many legislators from both parties want to keep farm disaster aid and the Milk Income Loss Compensation program in the final version of the emergency war spending bill.

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