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Grassley, Harkin united on bill

House, Senate will work out details

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

simmet@agrinews.com

WASHINGTON -- The timing couldn't be more crucial, said Sen. Tom Harkin in the wake of the Senate's passage last week of the farm bill.

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, was one of just nine Republicans to vote for the bill.

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The Senate and House will meet in conference committee to hammer out differences between the bills. The House passed its farm bill last fall.

"This new bipartisan farm bill is an important victory for the economy of rural America," said Harkin, a Democrat, who managed the bill as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "Our farmers and rural communities are struggling and this bill offers some hope for the future when and where it's most needed.''

Harkin said he was proud that the bill makes conservation a centerpiece of farm policy.

"This bill doubles our commitment to conservation over 10 years,'' Harkin said. "And the new Conservation Security Program will strengthen the good environmental practices already in place on farms.''

The rural development section of the farm bill will provide rural communities with the capital, infrastructure and technological tools they need to be successful, Harkin said. The bill contains a farm-based renewable energy title for the first time and includes initiatives to strengthen value added-industries.

Grassley won approval for his amendments to limit farm program payments to family farms, prohibit packer ownership of livestock, give farmers greater leverage in dispute resolutions, help farmers develop renewable energy sources, avoid trade disputes that hurt farm income and protect farmers who raise livestock under production contracts.

"Unlike the bill that came out of the Agriculture Committee, this bill contains key measures that are good for Iowa's family farmers and taxpayers," said Grassley. "It targets assistance to small- and mid-sized producers, injects greater competition into the industry and improves the quality of life in rural America.''

Grassley said the packer ownership portion of the bill is the most significant change to the Packers and Stockyards Act since the program was created in 1921.

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Grassley also inserted language in the bill that would force Congress to rewrite any portion of the farm program the secretary of agriculture finds threatens trade commitments.

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