Iowa Farm Bureau president Craig Lang says that the new farm bill Congress is writing in Washington D.C. might not be finished this year. Lang made his remarks at the two-day policy session for delegates at the Iowa Farm Bureau's summer policy conference last week in Des Moines.
"It will be difficult to get a bill out of Congress by the end of 2007," he says, "because of the limited amount of time available to negotiate the differences between the Senate and House versions of the new five-year farm bill."
Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the U.S. Senate Ag Committee, has said he hopes to have a farm bill through the committee by the third week of September and onto the Senate floor by the end of the month. After it passes the Senate, the bill will have to go to a conference committee where differences with the House-passed version will be worked out before the bill goes to the White House for signing. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has said he opposes several parts of the House bill.
IFB likes current commodity programs
Delegates to the Farm Bureau's policymaking conference approved resolutions that support making payments to farmers mainly through commodity support programs, as the current farm bill does. "Commodity programs should not be raided to pay for soil and water conservation or other programs," says Lang.
Iowa Farm Bureau delegates support the Conservation Security Program, which pays farmers for continuing soil conservation practices on cropland. They also support the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays landowners to take erodible farmland out of production and use it for trees, grass or other soil-conservation uses.
"Our members want to see adequate funding and simpler rules for the Conservation Security Program," says Lang. "There are two things that bother farmers about the CSP. They want it to be made simpler to protect the soil and water and they want it to be fully funded so that more farmers can participate."
Farm Bureau voting delegates ended up voting to reaffirm support for "continuous," site-specific enrollments in the Conservation Reserve Program, The delegates agreed that the CRP should be more targeted at offering enrollment options that specifically benefit water quality and soil conservation.
Need to take biofuels to the next level
Also at the policy session, Farm Bureau members cited the need for federal and state government to do more in providing funding to further develop biofuels.
"Farm Bureau members believe the bio-fuels economy needs to be taken to the next level through much needed research," says Lang. "Areas where continued research is necessary include maximizing the use of enhanced co-products such as soybean meal and distiller grains for the growing livestock industry."
"We also realize the importance of research to effectively manage soil and water conservation issues related to energy crop production," he adds. "We can do this the right way and the entire state benefits."
Need to fix Iowa's aging roads, bridges
Farm Bureau leaders also recognized the importance to maintain and improve Iowa's aging bridge and road infrastructure. "Obviously, our leaders recognize the importance of good roads and bridges to help the bio-economy but most importantly, for the overall safety of Iowans," notes Lang. "To effectively address these needs, members believe they should be financed through the fuel tax."
"This summer policy session was a good meeting," sums up Lang. Our members had a healthy discussion about the Farm Bill and reaffirmed support for a strong safety net, conservation programs that work in Iowa and an energy title that will further develop and promote bio-fuels. Additionally, members acknowledged the importance of trade programs in the Farm Bill. Expanding access to foreign markets is very important to the entire agriculture industry."
The August 29-30 Summer Policy Conference is a step in Farm Bureau's grassroots policy development process, with the Iowa Farm Bureau's national policies yet to be submitted to the American Farm Bureau Federation. All state Farm Bureaus meet in January to finalize the AFBF's national policies.