PCG EMAIL SERVICES: HPJ.COM - Farm bill conferees set to meet Sept. 5, as USDA plans concurrent bailout

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HPJ.COM - Farm bill conferees set to meet Sept. 5, as USDA plans concurrent bailout


By Larry Dreiling 
High Plains Journal
Aug 25, 2018 
Updated 4 hrs ago 

Conferees on the farm bill that has been passed by the House and Senate will hold a public meeting on Sept. 5, about the same time the U.S. Department of Agriculture will begin distribution of bailout payments to some farmers affected by retaliation from Trump administration imposed tariffs.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-KS; House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-TX; Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-MI; and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-MN, announced plans for conference Aug. 23.

"We are pleased to announce a meeting of the full Farm Bill Conference Committee," the four leaders said in a news release. "We are committed to working together on a farm bill that delivers certainty and predictability to our farmers and families as quickly as possible."

The Farm Bill Conference Committee is composed of 56 members—nine senators and 47 representatives.

Roberts told E&E News Aug. 21 committee staff members have made progress on some sections of the bill, including on differences between House and Senate provisions on conservation.

Roberts said he's advised committee staff to "try to single out the policy issues and see where we can have a good landing spot" in advance of the conference committee meeting.

Some areas have yet to have that soft landing. The House and Senate are split on the nutrition program, with the House set on work-related requirements that Democrats say they won't support. On conservation programs, the House proposes to eliminate the Conservation Stewardship Program and expands acreage under the Conservation Reserve Program more than the Senate version, among other differences.

"I think we've made some real progress with the conservation title," Roberts said. "That was another biggie."

On the nutrition program, Roberts told E&E News he'll try to convince House counterparts that changes contemplated by the Senate Agriculture Committee would achieve the same goals of program integrity.

The leaders met by conference call Aug. 16 to discuss progress and set the date for the Sept. 5 meeting, which isn't expected to show clear negotiation but will likely showcase leaders of the conference making remarks. Lawmakers are trying to reach a compromise bill before the 2014 farm bill expires at the end of September.

Roberts told E&E the lawmakers have discussed "nothing major since"  the conference call and he doesn't anticipate another call unless an issue arises that requires it.

"Right now, I don't see that," he said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to make payments "right after Labor Day" to tariff-affected farmers, a spokesman for Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told The Hagstrom Report.

Agri-Pulse reported Aug. 23 that the proposed payment rate for soybeans would be $1.65 per bushel, while corn growers would get only 1 cent per bushel, prompting expressions of concern from other commodity groups.

A USDA spokesman said the figures cited by Agri-Pulse were "based on preliminary information, is incomplete, and lacks context" and "may turn out to be inaccurate."

USDA has previously said that the amount of aid would total $12 billion. Politico calculated that the payments to farmers could be $7 billion to $8 billion, with the rest of the aid to be in the form of purchasing farm products for distribution in federal nutrition programs and overseas promotion of U.S. agriculture products.

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or ldreiling at hpj.com.

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