Farm Bill Mark-up Underway

The Senate Agriculture Committee began the long delayed process of moving the Senate Farm Bill toward the floor.

The farm bill that the Senate Agriculture Committee began marking-up Wednesday looks a lot like the last Farm Bill with a few changes.

"The commodities title of the proposal continues basic features of the 2002 Farm Bill, which I believe have worked well," said committee chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. "It gives producers a new option beginning in the 2010 crop year to choose to participate in a state level revenue protection system."

Harkin had hoped to complete committee work on the farm bill Wednesday, but the revenue assurance option met resistance from some committee members.

"These policies will increase market distorting subsidies," said Senator Richard Lugar, R-Ind. "Setting up retaliation against all our farm exports because it perpetuates a cotton program that violates world trading rules."

However; several issues were approved Wednesday including the proposed ban of packer ownership of livestock. Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has long been a proponent of the ban and has made it one of his top priorities. During Wednesday's mark-up he spoke about the ban.

"The best reason why a ban on packer ownership of livestock is needed is the packer CEO that told a group of Kansas farmers a few years ago in answer to the question why they own livestock, 'we own livestock because when prices are high we kill our own, when prices are low we buy from the farmer,'" said Grassley. "Just think not only how anti-competitive that is, but how demoralizing that is to family farmers."

The Western Organization of Resource Councils spoke out in favor of the measure, but the National Cattlemen's Beef Association did not share those views, and wants to keep the ban out of final farm bill legislation. The packer ban was included in the Senate version of the 2002 Farm Bill but was stripped out in conference with the House. The House-passed version does not include a ban on packer ownership, but leadership of the House is different than it was five years ago.

The Senate Agriculture Committee will continue work on the bill Thursday.

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