The Bush administration is still calling on Congress to write a completely new farm bill by 2007 despite mounting skepticism from lawmakers and farm groups after international trade talks failed to bring promises of new foreign markets for US exports.
US Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said that the current 2002 Farm Bill doesn’t treat all farmers fairly.
He focused on wheat farmers as a category of producers often left out when it comes to support programs such as counter cyclical and loan deficiency payments. Fruit, vegetable and other specialty crop producers are ignored almost completely in the 2002 Farm Bill, Johanns said.
The National Association of Wheat Growers agrees that a new farm bill must be written to address its members’ needs.
“We are supporting writing the 2007 bill to build on the strengths of the 2002 bill because the 2002 bill did not provide equitably for wheat growers,” NAWG spokeswoman Melissa George said Wednesday.
The 2002 Farm Bill’s counter cyclical program assures payments to farmers when prices are low, but the program set the target price for wheat too low, George said, making it nearly impossible for wheat growers to collect.
Many US farmers, though, are satisfied with the billions of dollars of subsidies in the current 2002 Farm Bill - a blueprint for US agriculture policy. In return for accepting proposed changes in a new 2007 bill, they were expecting the Doha round of World Trade Organization talks to produce a deal that would open up new foreign markets.
Those talks were suspended recently and some believe they are likely dead.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the suspension of talks marks “the end of Doha.”
Grassley has said he would like a new farm bill in 2007 because, “More than 72% of payments go to only 10% of our farmers. That imbalance is drawing more and more scrutiny from Americans from both rural and urban areas.”
But he also wanted to see a WTO deal that would have cut the tariffs that block US farm exports.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, said recently that without a WTO deal to create more access to international markets, many US farm groups won’t be willing to have subsidies taken away from them.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, the largest US group representing farmers, announced on July 27 that it wants to see the current 2002 Farm Bill be extended for a year with only minor changes.
AFBF President Bob Stallman said last week, “We give up our negotiating leverage if we significantly reduce and change what our domestic support policies are now and we won’t get anything for it,” he said. (Dow Jones Newswires)