Congress is taking on 2012 farm bill - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Congress is taking on 2012 farm bill

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BLACK HAWK COUNTY (KWWL) -

Congress continues to debate how it can cut trillions in federal spending.  But while those talks are happening, legislators are also hammering out details for the 2012 farm bill.  And few details are known about what might be included.

Ben Riensche owns and operates Blue Diamond Farming Company in rural Black Hawk County.  His corn and been crops are harvested, and now he's watching a crop of radishes.  But far from HIS Iowa radish field, Riensche's also keeping close watch on what's happening in Washington, D.C. as legislators begin talking about the next farm bill. 

Unlike years past, few details about the bill's proposal are being made public.  But direct payments to farmers are likely to face cuts and may go away completely.  Riensche says that's actually okay by him, since those payments aren't really the safety net they used to be.

"We're up to $5 production cost on corn, higher $10, $11 on soybeans.  But our prices, thank goodness, are higher than that.  And having a $20 an acre direct payment really is kind of a rounding error.  And it's time not to beholding of the government just for the sake of that tiny payment," Riensche said.

Legislators estimate that ending direct payments could save the government billions.  It's part of the federal debt super-committee's efforts to make major budget cuts.

"I'm sure that there's going to be $23 billion in savings if they adopt recommendations of the agriculture committee.  And there may be even more savings if the agriculture committee doesn't get our act together and a final product to them.  All I can say in final analysis is it's a very fluid situation," Sen. Chuck Grassley said.

That means there's still a lot of uncertainty about what the final farm bill might look like, including what kind of program might kick in to replace direct payments.

Another big what if—is what happens if the super-committee does not reach a deal by its Thanksgiving eve deadline.  It could then be Christmas before the farm bill landscape is defined.  But in the last farm bill negotiations in 2008, extensions allowed the debate to go until May.

Additional Note:

Some commodity farm groups are lobbying legislators in Washington, D.C., opposing any cuts to farm programs.  Those groups have pleaded that if the current rumored recommendations for the farm bill are what's going to be pushed through super-committee, they'd rather farm bill discussions be pushed back until next year.

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