POLITICAL GRANDSTANDING ERODES FARM BILL NEGOTIATIONS
MONTGOMERY, Ala., -- Political grandstanding by Senate Democratic leaders has eroded negotiations between farm bill conferees, adding to frustration for farmers, said Jerry Newby, president of Alabama Farmers Federation.
"As talk continues between conferees on the farm bill, it has become apparent that Senate conferees have not come to the table with a spirit of compromise," Newby said. "The House proposal on Thursday at least offered a step in the right direction to try to bridge the differences between the two bills."
Newby said the latest Senate offer is a step backwards because it takes money previously allocated for Southern crops such cotton and peanuts and redirects that money to crops favored by Midwestern producers.
Keith Gray, director of National Affairs for the Alabama Farmers Federation, said the latest Senate proposal regarding payment limits unfairly penalizes commercial-size farms in the South through the elimination of marketing certificates.
"Those certificates provide a safety net for farmers when they need it most," Gray said. "Continued low commodity prices mean that farmers will be reaching their payment limits sooner, and a reduction in those limits would compound an already difficult situation."
Newby, a farmer from Limestone County, said Alabama farmers and those throughout the U.S. already have suffered enough from the uncertainty of the farm bill because planting has begun. Continued delays will only increase the problem, he said.
"We call upon Senate conferees to begin genuine negotiations on the bill with the intent on passing a fair and equitable farm bill now," Newby said. "The House Republican leaders have put forth a bipartisan farm bill proposal. We call upon Senate conferees to match that good faith effort."
The farm bill is a multi-year, multi-commodity federal support law. It includes amendments and new provisions for commodity programs, trade, rural development, farm credit, conservation, agricultural research, food and nutrition programs and marketing. The House of Representatives passed its version of the farm bill last fall. Then, after months of delays, the Senate followed suit in February. The two versions were sent to a conference committee where House and Senate negotiators are supposed to work out the differences in the two bills.