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Senate Agriculture Leaders Hold Listening Sessions

posted on July 28, 2006

Despite the deadlock, the U.S. has no intention of abandoning the Doha Round. U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab flew to South America late in the week, for talks with Brazilian officials on ways to revive the talks.

Congress has its own dilemma over the halted trade talks. U.S. trade commitments influence agriculture policy and the Farm Bill is due to be rewritten next year.

More than two dozen lawmakers have proposed a one-year delay in extending the current Farm Bill. But the Senate Agriculture committee chairman is not one of them.


Senate Agriculture Leaders Hold Listening Sessions

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia: "I don't think it makes good business sense to extend this farm bill per say for one year or two years because farmers need to make plans and they need to make commitments and they need a long-term, stable farm program that they can depend upon."

The Chairman made his comments during a break at a Farm Bill field hearing in Iowa this week. With that said, Chambliss sat with Iowa Senators Democrat Tom Harkin, the Agriculture Committee's ranking member, and Republican Chuck Grassley, while listening to farmers and commodity group representatives.

A variety of topics were covered including trade and farm subsidies but a recurring theme among all 12 witnesses was conservation.

Paul Johnson, Chief, National Resources Conservation Service (ret.): "We often look at the commodity programs and we forget that good water and quail and pheasants are commodities as well. They're not on the Chicago Board of Trade, but none the less, we and the American public need them and want them and so do our children."

Some witnesses stressed preservation of farm subsidy payment programs.

Craig Hill, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation: "But to be clear, I feel the next farm bill should be extended and extend the concepts of food security or farm security in the rural investment act of 2002 until a new WTO agreement is reached."

And still others proposed alternative subsidy payment programs.

Keith Sexton, Iowa Corn Growers Association: "the advantage of a revenue based system over counter-cyclical payments is that in a revenue based system payments are received when they are most needed, in years of reduced crop income Given our agencies long term vision, and desire to see beginning farmers come into our industry, we come down firmly on the side of a revenue program

Sexton's testimony did not go unnoticed by Chairman Chambliss.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia: "This is the kind of out of the box thinking that we need from our commodity growers around the country and what I'm very hopeful that we're going to continue to hear."

The committee has held three hearings so far and has scheduled three more for August in Montana, Nebraska, and Oregon.


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