Senate committee OKs farm bill

05/14/2013 05:38:00 PM
Coral Beach

The other sticking point in the Senate’s farm bill as far as fresh produce growers are concerned is a section that could open the door for growers of subsidized commodities such as corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and cotton, to grow fruits and vegetables on their subsidized acres.

Guenther said the fresh produce industry has been successful since 1985 at preventing subsidized growers from planting specialty crops on land subsidized for other commodities.

“It’s a question of fairness,” Guenther said.

The biggest roadblocks to the farm bill’s ultimate passage, Guenther said, are provisions in both the Senate and House versions related to food stamp cuts, reforms of commodity programs and conservation issues.

The Senate version would trim $4 billion from the food stamp program while the House version seeks to cut $20.5 billion from the program during the next 10 years. Increases to subsidies for rice and peanut growers are another sticking point for some lawmakers.

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.RobertsSen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said during the May 14 committee hearing that the commodity provisions in the Senate farm bill amount to “income transfers, not risk management tools.”

“This is not a reform bill,” Roberts said. “This is a rearview mirror bill.”

Guenther said the concerns of the fresh produce industry are not as difficult to negotiate as the food stamp cuts and the commodity provisions.

“Our issues for fresh produce are important, but not unsolvable,” Guenther said, stopping short of predicting whether legislators will be able to resolve their differences on non-produce issues.

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