We now have a schedule for the rest of the House farm bill process. The Nutrition Subcommittee will mark up this Thursday, June 14th at 10:00am Eastern. The commodity subcommittee will mark up the following Tuesday, June 19th, also at 10:00am Eastern. And the full committee- where the sparks could very well start to fly- begins consideration of the 2007 farm bill at 10:00am on June 26th, and will go until the 28th (at least). Chairman Peterson has also said he has a guarantee for floor time in the House the week of July 16th. The schedule is here, and you can listen to audio of the hearings here.
What does all this mean? For one, it puts the House about a week behind where many thought they would be. It was expected that both Commodity and Nutrition would mark up this week with full committee consideration next week. But it does appear that writing the commodity title has become more difficult than Peterson expected. So now there will be a full week between the last subcommittee markup and the beginning of full committee consideration. Expect much deal-cutting and posturing over what amendments will be offered (and which ones will be allowed a vote) during that week. Also, you can expect all of the organizations working on the farm bill will be making a lot of noise that week as well.
Beyond the scheduling, Peterson has been making some interesting noises about payment limits as well. He has been quoted in several stories as saying that they will have to do something with payment limits in the House version of the farm bill, which is a very good thing. From AgWeek:
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said June 8 that he plans to impose stricter payment limitations on farm program conservation payments as well as crop subsidies in the 2007 farm bill.
In his weekly telephone news conference with reporters, Peterson noted that he is not a fan of payment limitations in general, but said that the House Agriculture Committee must include a payment limit plan in the bill it will mark up the last week of June or face noncommittee members offering an even stricter plan on the House floor.
Of course, this does not mean that Peterson’s version of payment limits will be effective, or anything close to the Dorgan-Grassley bill in the Senate, which has a very good chance of being in the Senate version of the farm bill. But if his version of payment limits includes closing even some of the loopholes that currently exist, reform advocates will be in a much better position when the farm bill goes into conference committee.
Peterson floated another interesting idea:
The Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee says they are moving ahead with writing the next farm bill. One of the challenges is program payment limits; Collin Peterson says there have been discussions with Southern lawmakers. “It’s going to be a judgment as to how we approach this.” The Congressman says right now they are looking at what changes can be made to get enough votes to pass the Committee. As for when it gets to the floor, “I think with some people, probably no matter what we do, it won’t be good enough.” The Chairman says whatever payment limits are set, they will apply to conservation program payments as well as commodity payments.
Including conservation payments under payment limitations is a great idea, and one the Center for Rural Affairs has pushed for a long time. For example, the Environment Quality Incentives Program currently has a $450,000 limit (before 2002, the limit was $50,000). That enormous limit has allowed giant confined animal feeding operations to receive government money to construct manure lagoons.
We don’t particularly like our taxpayer dollars being used to subsidize environmental catastrophes and the consolidation of agriculture. A strict payment limit on all payments could end this sort of junk, and we’re all for it.