During last week's meetings with North American Ag Journalists, U.S. House and Senate Ag Committee leaders assured that there would be a 2013 Farm Bill. But the dairy title under the next Farm Bill must be radically different, contended Congressman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member of the House Ag Committee.
Peterson even called the current title "disastrous". The Dairy Stabilization title produced too much milk, he noted. "If we don't change the dairy title, 25% of U.S. dairy farmers will be gone." One reason is that smaller dairy producers cannot benefit from the current pricing system or the margin insurance to the degree larger ones can.
The Dairy Pricing Reform Act proposed by Peterson and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., would force USDA to begin a hearing process to restructure the pricing system and make recommendations to Congress. But the two are split over supply management provisions, that could exempt the first 200 cows from supply management, and switch to a two-class pricing system would meet stiff opposition from processors.
Food stamps a fair budget-cutting target
"We have a list of about $25 billion in potential Farm Bill savings [reductions compared to the 2008 Farm Bill]," noted Peterson. "We're waiting for the Senate to give us their target."
Much of that savings would come from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (food stamps) program. He explained that many people using SNAP don't really need it. "Some 10- to 12-million get only $10 to $15 a month."
But Peterson expected no significant House action on the Farm Bill until after May. He guessed the same would be true of the U.S. Senate.
On the other hand, he expects federal budget sequestration to continue into 2014. "We won't be able to work out differences."