Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Walz hopes farm bill signed into law by end of year

By Janet Kubat Willette
jkubat@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 10/30/2013 4:19 PM

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WASHINGTON — The farm bill conference committee is expected to begin meeting the last week of October.

Leaders of the agriculture committee, including Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., have already begun meeting, said Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., in a conference call last week.

Staff is also working to establish parameters.

Minnesota will have three members of its congressional delegation on the farm bill conference committee. In addition to Peterson, Walz and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, will serve on the conference committee.

Walz said he's honored and glad to be on the conference committee. He said it's good news that the first real big thing Congress is going to try to accomplish after resolving the shutdown is passage of the farm bill, which has traditionally been bipartisan.

But passage of a new farm bill has already been hindered by bipartisan fights in the House. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill in June. The House ag committee passed a bipartisan farm bill including farm and food spending, but the bill didn't pass on the House floor.

A farm-only bill passed, and later House Republicans passed a food-only bill that cuts food program spending by $39 billion during five years. The House spends $725 billion on food programs during 10 years compared to $760 billion in the Senate bill.

Walz remains optimistic that the farm bill conference committee will engage in the great tradition of bipartisanship and reach a compromise on the farm bill, sending it to the floor of the House and Senate for passage and then onto the president for his signature before the end of the year. That will restart the way business should be done in Congress and give farmers some certainty.

Walz said he was getting calls from other members on the farm bill, including Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., who has worked with him on beginning farmer provisions in the bill.

Walz said he wasn't going to lock himself in on language in the bill heading into negotiations, but he did indicate it would be a mistake to take out permanent law.

National Farmers Union last week said maintaining farm bill permanent law is one of their key issues.

"Rescinding permanent law would remove the incentive to update and reauthorize the farm bill, leaving conservation, renewable energy, rural development, research, trade and other provisions without authority to continue," said Roger Johnson, NFU president.

Walz said he supports a strong safety net for producers, as well as strong conservation and energy titles. He is not interested in making being hungry a sin, but he is open to the idea of making the nutrition program more efficient.