WASHINGTON – Two weeks after a self-imposed deadline by congressional agriculture leaders to come up with $23 billion in cuts to farm programs, DFL Rep. Collin Peterson said Tuesday that he hopes an agreement can be worked out by the end of the week.
Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, has been working behind closed doors with his House and Senate counterparts on a plan that would essentially be the next five year farm bill.
In October, the quartet promised the deliver legislation by early November that could tucked into the much larger much larger deficit reduction bill currently under negotiation by the special 12 member “super committee.” That legislation is must be drafted by Nov. 23.
“Certain senators have brought problems to the table,” said Peterson, who said the House members involved in the talks are agreed on the bill. Peterson said the sticking point remains the commodity chapter of the bill, which covers farm payments.
As is often the case with agricultural issues, Peterson said regional differences were at the heart of the disagreement, pointing to a variety of crops most commonly found in the South.
“Cotton, rice and peanuts need a different program than the rest of the crops,” said Peterson.
The framework under negotiation would bring an end to to direct payments to farmers, a system in place since the 1990s, and replace it with expanded crop insurance and a so-called “shallow loss” revenue protection program that would compensate farmers when crop prices fall by a specified amount.
That proposal has drawn fire from some House members, including DFL Rep. Keith Ellison, and environmental groups opposed to farm subsidies who say the super committee legislation should not be used as a vehicle to create new spending programs. Under the special rules created for the committee last summer, the super committee’s legislation is also immune to a Senate filibuster and cannot be amended.