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American Corn Growers express concern over House version of farm bill

(Oct. 10, 2001 -- CropChoice news) -- The following comes from the American Corn Growers Association.

The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) this week recognized the leadership and initiative of Chairman Larry Combest, R-Texas, and Ranking Minority Member Charles Stenholm, D-Texas, of the House Agriculture Committee for passing a new farm bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, but expressed their concerns that the bill is woefully short in providing an adequate safety net for America's farm and ranch families.

Keith Dittrich, a corn farmer from Tilden, Neb. and president of the ACGA stated, "The bill passed by the House is the wrong bill at the wrong time. It is basically the same policy we have had for the past six years, a time period in which farmers of all commodities have experienced the lowest prices and highest expenses in decades. We need to improve this policy to increase farm income through higher market prices."

Dittrich applauded the House bill for the stability of its target price mechanism, its expansion of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the fact that, if enacted, farmers would not be at the mercy of politically charged annual ad hoc emergency spending bills.

However, Dittrich went on to point out that the bill is too complicated with its three-tiered approach which includes a low support, or loan rate, a fixed payment and a counter-cyclical payment and urged changes to simplify the program to provide benefits merely through the an adequate loan rate and dispense with the direct payments. Targeting to family sized farms could then be accomplished by limiting the loan volume a producer would be eligible for, eliminating the arguments about how many dollars producers of different crops could receive.

"We are also concerned, and want producers to understand, that the bill's $2.75 per bushel target price guarantee is not paid on all of their production or acres," explained Dittrich. "Producers will get the loan rate, with its Marketing Loan Gains (MLG) and/or Loan Deficiency Payments (LDP) on all bushels within the limits of the bill. What they may not realize is that they will get the Fixed Payment and the Counter-Cyclical payment on only about 63 percent of their production."

Dittrich extended his congratulations to Congresswoman Mary Bono, R-Calif., for passage of her amendment, which will require country of origin labeling on all fresh fruits and vegetables. "This provision has been demanded by consumers and farmers for years and we are pleased with Representative Bono and her leadership which led to the inclusion of country of origin labeling in the House bill."

Dittrich called upon leadership in the U.S. Senate to improve the bill by passing ACGA's Family Farm Agriculture Recovery and Maintenance Act (F.A.R.M. Act). The act would improve market prices paid directly to farmers, while maintaining competitiveness. The proposal would offer a new "Market Participation Loan" program with the loan rate set at an adequate level -approximately $3.15 per bushel for corn -- and eliminate direct government payments. The measure would give the Secretary of Agriculture discretion to reinstate the Farmer Owned Reserve and provide for a Strategic Energy Reserve for the nation's energy needs, such as ethanol and biodiesel. Other authority, which would be extended to the Secretary under the F.A.R.M. Act, would be to implement a voluntary, flexible fallow program.