Farm Bill Advances, Despite Johanns Objection

The Senate Ag Committee has passed a proposed Farm Bill, despite opposition from Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns. Today the Senate Ag Committee passed the Farm Bill on a vote of 15 to 5. Johanns was among the five no votes.

In his opening comments, the former US Ag Secretary expressed concerns with the entire Farm Bill. Johanns had serious concerns about the bill's new direction. He felt it is market distorting and has numerous budget gimmicks. "It hides $3.1 billion in payments right outside the 10-year budget window," Johanns said. "It reminds me of the days back when I was governor of Nebraska. Times were tough. And somebody was suggesting, well, we can balance the budget by just delaying the school aid payment until the next fiscal year. That didn't solve any problems, and this doesn't solve any problems. That's just no way to deal with budget issues".

Johanns also fundamentally disagree with target prices. "Congress should get out of the business of setting prices, " Johanns said. "That's why we have markets. Farmers don't always get the price they want, and farmers recognize that that's a part of agriculture. If we keep telling farmers to plant for prices that are higher than the market or cover the cost of production even, they will simply respond to that. And the end result is, you have planting that is too much and lower prices. That drives prices down, continuing the cycle of low prices and government payments. It's just not the right policy for agriculture".

In talking with farmers, Johanns is not hearing farmers want target prices. He doesn't even remember farmers wanting a shallow loss program. "Farmers just basically said the basic crop insurance program that we have is working," Johanns said. "Try to do everything you can to sustain that program".

There are few things he likes in the Farm Bill proposal. "It does have the tightest AGI and payment limits of any farm bill that I'm aware of," Johanns said. It also makes sure that farmers are actively engaged in the farming operation. Furthermore, this farm bill preserves -- and I would say does a good job with the basic crop insurance program.

Johanns also appreciated the efforts to streamline and simplify the conservation programs. The bill also provides for basic research at USDA universities, private foundations, and companies that is needed to grow more food on fewer acres.

Tomorrow the House Ag Commmittee will begin mark up of their version of the Farm Bill.

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