Senator to Congress: Pass Farm Bill

By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters Tuesday that Congress should pass the Senate version of the farm bill during the lame duck session, but said it is more likely there will be a one-year extension of the expired 2014 farm bill.

In a call to rural reporters, Grassley said of the Senate bill, "I'm not sure why we can't just pass it in the lame duck."

But Grassley also said the chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House agriculture committees appear to be making so little progress in negotiations that there is more likely to be a one-year extension of the 2014 farm bill.

Asked by a reporter whether the extension would not be as complicated as passing a new bill if it is to cover the programs that have lost their authorization, Grassley said he had not considered that issue.

Southerners think they need "more subsidy," Grassley said, referring to a battle over whether farmers in districts with persistent drought should be able to update their yields using budget authority that would come from Midwestern farmers who have planted cropland to grass and get payments. The Southerners, Grassley said, need to come to the table and learn what is realistic.

Grassley said his other priority in the lame duck session is the passage of a tax extenders bill, including the biodiesel tax credit, and a fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill that includes the Agriculture Department.

Grassley declined to say whether he would vote for the farm bill conference report if his amendment to stiffen farm subsidy payment limitations, which is in the Senate bill, is not included in the conference report.

"The lame duck will go fast," Grassley said. He said he will decide "soon" whether to remain chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee or to seek the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee.

Meanwhile, in a blog post, the American Farmland Trust said, "For the sake of producers, consumers, and the land that sustains us, we urge Congress to make the Farm Bill a priority and to get a bipartisan bill done before the end of 2018."

On Monday, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition urged Congress to pass a bill that includes programs that benefit veterans who farm or want to farm.

The National Milk Producers Federation urged Congress to "put farmers first" in the lame duck session.

"Given the sustained low prices dairy farmers have faced, coupled with uncertainty in agricultural trade policy, it is more important than ever that Congress quickly enact the 2018 farm bill before adjourning for the year," National Milk President and CEO Jim Mulhern said in a news release. "Both the House- and Senate-passed bills make important reforms to dairy policy, making the Margin Protection Program a more effective safety net for producers and expanding producer access to additional risk management options."

(AG)

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