House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) told wheat growers this week that he plans to write a bipartisan, baseline 2012 Farm Bill, with hearings exploring stakeholder ideas and concerns coming as soon as March or April.
He made the comments as part of a wide-ranging discussion at a joint session of the NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates Boards, during which he was presented with the 2009 Wheat Leader of the Year Award, the wheat industry’s highest public service award.
Peterson said everything was on the table for the next round of federal farm policy discussions and that producers should start evaluating priorities now, even as the 2008 Farm Bill is still being implemented.
“You need to start thinking now about what you want in the next farm bill, and that’s part of why I’m starting early, to get you guys engaged,” he said.
Peterson said he wasn’t sure the current safety net programs are adequate given input cost increases and expressed interest in revenue concepts like ACRE, though he noted ACRE is too complicated and would be better if based on county revenue.
He noted the importance of the crop insurance program to the farm safety net and expressed concern about losing baseline through the Administration’s renegotiation of the Standard Reinsurance Agreement. Peterson referenced that he met with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and told him he was “not enamored” with giving up $4 billion in authority needed to write the next farm bill.
He said his goal was to create a safety net that would allow producers to share risk with the government and be able to get financing if production problems occur.
“We should provide the underpinning to let you do what you do best – and that is produce,” he said. “What I’m interested in is having a safety net for agriculture that works.”
Importantly, Peterson also described to growers his efforts to help his fellow Members better understand agriculture and discussed challenges from reform advocates, saying that agriculture’s opponents often try to define what “reform” means.
“We need to be looking at how to make this work better, how to have systems that we can explain to our urban colleagues that make sense to them,” he said. “That’s part of what I want to do over the next year.”
As Chairman, Peterson’s work touches nearly every aspect of agricultural policy and often involves careful negotiations to ensure wide-ranging bills don’t inappropriately affect agricultural production.
In the past year, he has worked intensely on climate change, food safety and derivative legislation, and his continued efforts to bridge the divide between agricultural priorities and Members who aren’t familiar with rural life was a key component in his selection as 2009 Wheat Leader.
“At the end of the day,” Peterson told growers, “I’m in Congress because I want to help production agriculture, producers. That’s why I do it.”
For more information about the Wheat Leader Award, please visit http://www.wheatworld.org/2010/01/house-agriculture-chairman-collin-peterson-named-wheat-leader/