A House agriculture committee “concept paper” on the new farm bill won generally favorable comments from ag organization leaders in Capitol Hill hearings. The paper “represents a commendable job,” with farm policies that “are balanced and equitable and establish a very creditable foundation from which to build new farm programs that will provide a more effective safety net for farmers, enhance the industry's competitiveness, and benefit the rural economy and farmers,” Mark D. Williams said on behalf of the National Cotton Council.

“From cotton's perspective, there is little about the basic farm concept of your paper with which to take issue,” he said at the hearings conducted by Larry Combest, R-Texas, chairman of the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. “Our industry supports many aspects of the committee's work.” These include, Williams said:

  • A marketing loan keyed to the world market price.
  • Retention of cotton's three-step competitiveness plan.
  • Retention of fixed, decoupled payments.
  • A new counter-cyclical payment program.
  • An option for growers to update their payment bases.
  • Retention of full planting flexibility, with no mandatory supply management requirements.

“We're very pleased with the committee's work,” said Dusty Tallman, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers. “I'm confident we're proceeding down the correct path, and that the final product of these deliberations will be a farm bill we can all support.”

He said wheat growers “have always supported the basic philosophical and practical underpinnings of the 1996 FAIR Act…and the counter-cyclical component of the committee's draft adds the missing element of the original act. With this addition, we view this as a very complete document.”

Not all comments were positive, however.

Tony Anderson, president of the American Soybean Association, said “we do not find (it) to be balanced and equitable in its treatment of oilseed crops.”

He said while the paper gives program crops their current loan rates, the target prices they had prior to the FAIR Act, and the 2002 ATMA payment, oilseeds would get reduced loan rates and target prices and fixed payments “at levels that do not reflect their value or historical price relationship to program costs.”

This, Anderson said would force producers “to choose between base periods that lock in these unequal benefits, resulting in sharply reduced income protection for most oilseed producers, and the likelihood of increased, base-driven production of program crops.”

He urged the committee to “take another look” at proposals presented in earlier hearings. “One of the benefits of establishing a new counter-cyclical income support program is that it can be built from the ground up — making it easier to address all crops equitably. We strongly encourage re-examination of these concepts to see if a new approach can be developed, rather than going back to the target price model,” Anderson said.