Last week, a House agriculture subcommittee voted to keep in place the subsidy portion of the 2002 Farm Bill for another five years instead of overhauling farmers' safety net. According to House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson, D-Min., the vote could be a reaction against payment limits for big farms.
"The biggest problem was the payment limit issue," Peterson told reporters in a press call late last week. The Bush administration wants to cut off subsidy payments to operations with a yearly income of over $200,000, but Peterson says that cap would mainly cut off rice, peanut and cotton growers and erode Southern support for the 2007 Farm Bill.
If those payment limits are going to be included in the bill, cotton, rice and peanut growers "will have to come and beg me to put it back in," Peterson says.
Peterson stresses that the commodity title needs to have "an outcome that's good for production agriculture," and he believes that many of the sweeping reforms that have been proposed, which would cut support for growers of major commodities, would destroy production agriculture and in turn cause substantially higher food prices. "We can't afford to lose these farmers," he says.
Peterson says keeping a safety net in place is crucial because when prices are good, farmers will always overproduce.