Seed World discusses the farm bill with Minnesota Congressman Collin C. Peterson, Ranking Member, House Agriculture Committee.
SW: Without action on a new farm bill by the current Congress what course of action might happen when Congress reconvenes after the election?
|Minnesota Congressman Collin C. Peterson
CP: It’s going to be very difficult, but the House should bring the Agriculture Committee’s five-year farm bill to the floor when we return November 13. I believe there are enough votes to pass the bill and if we get it done early enough in the lame-duck session there will be time to work out our differences with the Senate and get the farm bill finished before the end of the year.
I am opposed to an extension of any kind. Reauthorizing the farm bill next year will only make the situation more difficult. The Agriculture Committees will have to start all over again and we will likely also have much less money available so the budget situation will be very difficult.
The 2008 Farm Bill expired September 30 but the real impact of the expiration won’t be felt until January when dairy programs revert to permanent law from the 1940s. The permanent law provisions do not reflect modern agriculture so it is very difficult to understand what impact not enacting a new five-year farm bill will have. This is why it is so important to provide the certainty of a five-year farm bill.
SW: What kind of language relating to renewable energy should be included in the next farm bill?
CP: The 2008 Farm Bill included energy programs, such as REAP and the Biorefinery Loan Program, to give agriculture producers and rural areas the tools they need to be more energy efficient, lowering their operating costs while also helping them continue to be an important renewable energy source for all of America. I support the intent of these programs, but because of the budget constraints, the House Agriculture Committee’s bill does not include mandatory energy program funding.
SW: Should legislation pertaining to agricultural trade be part of the farm bill?
CP: I believe increasing market access is always a good thing and the Agriculture Committee’s farm bill includes programs such as the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program that will increase the availability and viability of American products in foreign markets.
SW: Should ‘food aid’ provisions continue as the major impact of the next farm bill?
CP: I don’t support separating nutrition programs from the farm bill. We need a broad coalition, both rural and urban members, to pass the farm bill through Congress. If we separate the nutrition programs from the bill, I worry that there won’t be enough support to pass the farm bill.