grassley meeting

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

WEST UNION, Iowa — If agreement isn’t reach on a farm bill by April 18, Sen. Charles Grassley says the 2002 farm bill should be extended for a year.

"We can’t leave so much doubt in farmers’ minds about what the program is for this crop year," Grassley said during an interview following last week’s town meeting in West Union.

Grassley said that at 35 town meetings held in the last two weeks, farmers asked him if there is going to be a farm bill. They told him that they want meaningful payment limits, a ban on packer ownership of livestock and strong conservation programs.


Grassley, who is a member of the conference committee negotiating differences between the House and Senate versions of the farm bill, said that he’s receiving phone calls regarding negotiations.

"But nothing is solidified," Grassley said.

Last week during his weekly conference call with reporters, Grassley said he was sending a letter to Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate ag committee, and Deputy ag secretary Chuck Connor asking them to consider a farm payment limits proposal drafted by the Center for Rural Affairs. The proposal contains four payment limitation reforms that could potentially save $1 billion to $2 billion over 10 years.

Grassley said he likes the Center for Rural Affairs’ plan.

"They’re a think thank that I’ve got great confidence in," Grassley said. "Since the Dorgan-Grassley amendment isn’t in the bill and the White House wants reforms, they’ve come up with an alternative. Half a loaf is better than no loaf at all."

The four-point proposal reduces payment limitations and income limitations only when prices are above target price. It softens the impact of reduced limits on cotton, rice and peanuts. It incorporates the Bush administration’s proposal to lower adjusted gross income limits, but with a feature to increase the savings by reducing payments on cash rented land owned by high-income landlords.

It incorporates the primary control and actively engaged in farming provisions of the Dorgan-Grassley proposal.

Among the topics discussed at the West Union meeting, a share-holder in the Freedom Fuels biodiesel plant in Mason City asked Grassley to help farmer-owned biodiesel plants that are operating at no more than 20 percent capacity due to high soybean oil prices. He asked Grassley to look at whether major soybean oil processors are inflating prices to force small plants out.


Grassley said he should pull together industry people and the Iowa Soybean Association and come up with a proposal that would help them.

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