Readers Respond

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Letters to the Pilot

A tractor-size loop-hole in Farm Bill

From CHUCK GRASSLEY / Iowa Senator

I'm extremely disappointed that my amendment to limit farm payments to those who need it most was not included in the final Farm Bill that cleared the Senate. This was a real opportunity for the Senate to provide real reform and make a strong statement for the family farmer. Instead they left a loophole that anybody could drive a tractor through.

However, I voted in favor of the end product because I said that I would not hold up the Farm Bill if my amendment was defeated, and there are a lot of positive provisions, including several of mine, that were included.

I'm glad that for the first time ever, a competition title was included in the farm bill. This includes a long-standing priority of mine that would ban packer ownership of livestock. Also included is a ban on mandatory arbitration in contracts between big agribusiness firms and family farmers which I've fought to get passed for many years. These are all provisions that will continue to help the family farmer compete.

Another item to note is the funding to help black farmers who were denied entry into the Pigford v. Glickman settlement. I would have liked to include more, as would have been the case if the payment limits amendment had passed, but half a loaf is better than no loaf at all.

Last but not least, this bill contains an agricultural tax package which includes a new residential wind credit, a new production tax credit for cellulosic ethanol, the extension of the small ethanol producer credit through 2012, and the extension of biodiesel tax credits through 2010. It also makes improvements to the conservation reserve program to give farmers more flexibility and to make the taxation of conservation reserve program payments more fair.

As I look forward to the conference committee, there's still a chance for Congress to do even more for the family farmers. I have no doubt that we'll be fighting the special interests during negotiations. But, I hope conferees will look at this as an opportunity to help the family farmer and close the loopholes that have been left open.