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MFU, MFB like some things in Senate bill

But FB finds many things to dislike

By Janet Kubat Willette

jkubat@agrinews.com

Minnesota Farmers Union and Minnesota Farm Bureau both find things to like in the Senate ag bill.

Both farm organizations support the ban on packer ownership of livestock and country of origin labeling, but that's were agreement stops.

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"We're very pleased with the Senate bill that has moved out," said MFU president Dave Frederickson.

'A policy shift'

He praised Minnesota's senators for advancing issues that Farmers Union believes are critical, including the ownership ban, country of origin labeling, payment limitations and loan rate increases.

Under the Senate farm bill, the loan rate for corn is $2.08; for wheat, $3; and $5.20 for soybeans.

The House version of the bill allows the agriculture secretary to lower the loan rate, while the Senate version doesn't. The loan rate floors grain prices and should work to drive up prices in the marketplace, Frederickson said.

He called the bill "a policy shift in the country back to a program that actually worked for farmers."

Joe Martin, MFB associate director of governmental affairs, said the American Farm Bureau Federation doesn't officially support passage of the Senate farm bill, primarily because of a water rights amendment.

The amendment, authored by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., gives USDA authority over water rights on land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. In the short-term, there isn't much concern about this in the Midwest, but in the long-term, there is a lot of CRP land in the Midwest, Martin said.

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The amendment calls for a pilot program in Washington, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Maine and New Hampshire.

Another sticking point is payment limits. The limits wouldn't dramatically affect Midwest producers, but they do impact southern agricultural producers. Farm Bureau opposes payment limitations, Martin said.

Farm Bureau is also concerned that the higher loan rates will violate World Trade Organization agreements and that the money put into higher loan rates at the expense of reducing crop insurance premiums will make insurance more expensive and less used by producers, he said.

LSP hails bill

The Land Stewardship Project, which was actively involved in crafting the Conservation Security Act, hailed passage of the bill as a step forward for family farmers.

The Conservation Security Act received $500 million a year funding, said Mark Schultz, LSP policy program director.

Farmers will be able to voluntarily enter the program, which will allow them to receive payments based on the conservation changes they make on their working land.

About 85 percent of conservation funding since 1985 has went to setaside land and the CSA is a way to put some resources toward working lands, Schultz said.

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The ban on packer ownership was another victory, he said.

The ban passed because of grassroots lobbying efforts and the dedication of several senators.

"There would not have been a ban on packer ownership without Paul Wellstone," Schultz said. "It takes real guts and knowing how the system works to move this all the way through the Senate."

Schultz says the House should take heed and follow the Senate's lead in passing the ban.

"If there's anything they should adopt, it's that," he said.

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