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Agriculture consolidation and farm safety net discussed in D.C.

posted on February 4, 2000


AS HAS BEEN THE CASE FOR THE PAST 18 MONTHS THE STRONG U.S. ECONOMY REMAINS APART FROM RURAL AMERICA. THIS WEEK CONGRESS BEGAN TO GRAPPLE WITH THE FUNDAMENTALS THAT ARE CAUSING SO MUCH PAIN IN THE COUNTRY, THE ALARMING CONSOLIDATION IN AGRICULTURE AND THE WEAVE OF THE GOVERNMENT'S FARM SAFETY NET.

Dan Glickman: I believe these ideas and proposals lay the groundwork for a better farm safety net than we have now.

REFERRING TO THE FUNDING AS A "SAFETY NET," THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION OUTLINED ITS PROPOSAL FOR 11.5-BILLION DOLLARS IN NEW FARM SPENDING THIS WEEK.

THE LION'S SHARE OF THE MONEY, NEARLY 7-BILLION DOLLARS, WOULD GO TO A NEW SYSTEM OF "SUPPLEMENTAL INCOME" PAYMENTS EARMARKED FOR SMALL AND MEDIUM SIZED FARMS.

THE ADMINISTRATION ALSO WANTS TO IMPROVE CONSERVATION EFFORTS BY PROVIDING 1.2 BILLION IN DIRECT PAYMENTS TO FARMERS WHO MAKE AN EFFORT TO CURB RUNOFF OF CHEMICALS FROM THEIR LAND.

THE PROPOSAL ALSO EXPANDS THE FEDERALLY SUBSIDIZED CROP INSURANCE PROGRAM AND DISCOUNTS PREMIUMS.

THE 11.5 BILLION DOLLARS WOULD BE IN ADDITION TO THE 15-BILLION DOLLARS IN EMERGENCY FUNDING PREVIOUSLY AUTHORIZED BY CONGRESS OVER THE PAST YEAR.

WHILE THE REPUBLICAN-AUTHORED "FREEDOM TO FARM ACT" IS FREQUENTLY BLAMED FOR THE DEPRESSED FARM ECONOMY, SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE DAN GLICKMAN CLAIMS THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION ISN'T DISMANTLING CURRENT FARM POLICY.

Dan Glickman: We are not rewriting the Farm Bill, we are enhancing it. If anything, we are rewriting the frantic, last minute, costly, poorly thought out approach to emergency legislation.

THE PROPOSAL HAS DRAWN HARSH CRITICISM FROM SOME IN CONGRESS, IN PART, DUE TO A 30,000-DOLLAR CAP ON PAYMENTS TO FARMERS.

CURRENT "MARKET TRANSITION" PAYMENTS PROVIDED BY THE 1996 FARM BILL WOULD COUNT TOWARDS THE 30,000 DOLLAR LIMIT.

REPUBLICAN SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY OF IOWA CALLED THE PLAN, "PALTRY" AND SAID IT'S OUT OF TOUCH WITH RURAL AMERICA.

FOR HIS PART GRASSLEY IS ATTEMPTING TO PROVIDE RELIEF ON WHAT HE VIEWS IS A CRITICAL FRONT. HE HAS INSERTED LANGUAGE INTO A MASSIVE REWRITE OF THE NATION'S BANKRUPTCY CODE.

THE GRASSLEY LANGUAGE WOULD EXPAND AND GRANT PERMANENT STATUS TO CHAPTER 12 WHICH IS TAILORED TO HELP FARMERS REORGANIZE DEBT AND STAY IN BUSINESS. UNDER THE NEW LANGUAGE MORE FARMERS WOULD BE ELIGIBLE FOR CHAPTER 12 PROTECTION.

THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM OF FARM GROUPS WHO ARE PUSHING THE GOVERNMENT TO ADDRESS MATTERS OF ANTI-TRUST IN AGRICULTURE IS BROAD AND POWERFUL. THE REPUBLICAN ORIENTED AMERICAN FARM BUREAU STANDS SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH THE DEMOCRAT-LEANING NATIONAL FARMERS UNION.

FARM STATE LAWMAKERS OF BOTH PARTIES ARE PUSHING LEGISLATION THAT TARGETS A HOST OF COMPLAINTS ABOUT THE PATTERN OF OWNERSHIP IN THE MEAT INDUSTRY. CONSENSUS IS AN INFREQUENT POWERFUL PHENOMENON IN THE NATION'S CAPITOL, USUALLY RESERVED FOR MAJOR WARS AND MOTHERHOOD RESOLUTIONS. IT IS ANTICIPATED THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT WILL SOON WEIGH IN.

Tags: agriculture farmers farming news safety Washington D.C.