Grassley will send low prices lower

Bart Ruth of the American Soybean Association and Tim Hume of the National Corn Growers, sent a letter to Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Dick Lugar, R-Ind., and Reps. Larry Combest, R-Texas, and Charlie Stenholm, D-Texas, urging the conference managers to drop the amendment from any conference report.

“We are concerned that restrictions on marketing loan eligibility could have the inadvertent consequence of depressing already low prices for corn and soybeans due to increased production,” said Ruth and Hume, both producers from the Midwest.

They said the amendment’s provisions to eliminate commodity certificates and the three-entity rule, as well as an “inappropriate cap” on production eligible for loan deficiency payments, could prevent many cotton and rice producers from receiving marketing loan benefits on their full production.

“If prices for these crops remain at current levels, an estimated 1.1 million acres currently planted to cotton and rice in the Mid-South states alone would be ineligible for loan benefits. As a result, it is likely that this acreage would be planted to crops with lower per-acre production costs, particularly corn and soybeans. The resulting increase in production would further depress prices for our crops.”

ASA and NCGA believe the next Farm Bill “should reduce, not increase, the influence of farm programs on producer planting decisions. For this reason, we support setting marketing loans at levels that do not distort production of eligible crops,” they said.

“For the same reason, we oppose tightening restrictions on eligibility for marketing loans or loan benefits in a way that would inadvertently, but perhaps significantly, impact planting decisions.”

The letter from the groups came as Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman again said the delay in getting a conference report out of the House-Senate conference committee will make it difficult for USDA to implement a new farm bill for 2002.

Flying with the President on Air Force to an agricultural roundtable in South Dakota, Veneman told reporters that he is “concerned about getting a farm bill as quickly as possible.

“There has been a compromise proposal that’s been introduced that has been agreed to on a bipartisan basis by all of the House conferees, and it has also been agreed to by the Senate Republicans, but the Senate Democrats have not agreed to that,” she said.

Following the failure of conferees to endorse the compromise, “most of the major farm organizations sent letters saying they supported this compromise and let’s go forward with this compromise or something near it and get this farm bill done,” she noted.

“So we’re hopeful that we can get people to come together very quickly because if we don’t get people to come together quickly and agree on a compromise, it’s going to be very tough for USDA to implement this bill for what they call the 2002 crop year crops, because they’re already going in the ground.”

Asked if she thought Senate Democrats were trying to work with the administration and the House conferees or “dragging their feet,” Veneman said it’s been difficult to tell from day to day.

“There have been two or three times during this conference process where they believed they had an agreement on something fairly major in terms of a piece of it, particularly the commodity title, and then the Senate Democrats have pulled back,” she said. “And I think there have been concerns raised about whether or not there’s really a real desire here to help farmers or whether there’s a little politics being played.

“But we just think we need to move on and get this thing done as quickly as possible.”

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