Friday, May 4, 2007 By Shawn Wade
PCGExecutive Vice President Steve Verett completed a busy week in Washington, DCwhere he attended the House Agriculture Committee's General Farm Commoditiesand Risk Management Subcommittee hearing on the Federal Crop Insurance Programand also participated in scheduled visits with Congressional offices and USDA.
“ProvidingPCG's input on Farm Bill issues was the main focus of this week's trip,” notesVerett. “It is clear that budget issues continue to be the driving forcecomplicating the farm bill development process. It is a tough environment and,with an extensive list of program changes in play, the House and Senate Agcommittee's have a lot of work ahead of them.”
“Ourintent is to continue to provide good information and knowledgeablerecommendations to Congress throughout this process,” concludes Verett. “Basedon the amount of work that House and Senate Ag Committee members and staff haveto do PCG's reputation as a respected resource for cotton input will continueto allow the interests of High Plains cotton producers to be heard.”
Duringthe trip Verett had the opportunity to visit with staff members from theoffices of Rep. Randy Neugebauer and Rep. Mike Conaway in addition to visitswith staff from the House Committee on Agriculture.
Friday, May 4, 2007 By Shawn Wade
Backat square one appears to be where a long-awaited emergency agriculturaldisaster assistance package stands following President George Bush's veto ofthe Iraq War supplemental appropriations bill. President Bush vetoed thelegislation late Tuesday and immediately invited a bipartisan group ofCongressional leaders to meet on Wednesday and begin discussions aimed atdeveloping a compromise.
Bush'saction backed up his threatened veto of the bill that was originally issuedbecause of a controversial troop withdrawal deadline included by CongressionalDemocrats. In the following weeks Bush Administration officials continued tonote the President's opposition to the troop withdrawal language, but alsoadded objections to several of the additional emergency spending measures thatwere included in the bill, including the agriculture disaster assistancemeasure.
Followingthe veto House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) provided acounterpoint to the Administration's objections to agriculture assistance andother spending measures included in the supplemental bill.
Petersonexplained that even though the supplemental bill's main purpose was to providefunding for the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the legislation is theonly supplemental spending bill Congress is expected to consider this fiscalyear and is therefore the proper place to consider additional emergencyspending requests. Peterson notes that in addition to the agricultureassistance package the vetoed measure also included several items submitted bythe Administration not related to Defense Department needs.
Petersonconcluded that even though the need for agriculture disaster assistance is welldocumented, farmers and ranchers have been frustrated that the Administrationhas supported emergency aid for other victims of weather-related adversity, butconsistently resisted any attempt to provide assistance for agriculture'sweather-related losses.
Discussingprospects for the agriculture disaster package, Peterson said that the realityis that unless it is made part of the supplemental bill the odds are disasterassistance would not get done at all. From that basis he went on to reiteratethat his intention is to make agriculture disaster assistance part of anycompromise on the emergency supplemental bill going forward.
“Despitethe President's veto, you can be assured that I will do everything I can toensure that any compromise reached on this emergency supplemental bill willhave agricultural disaster assistance attached to it,” said Peterson.“Emergency funding belongs in emergency legislation. That is not a stunt. Thatis the political process.”
NebraskaSenator Ben Nelson (D) delivered a similar message to producers in relation tothe ultimate fate of the agriculture assistance package. Nelson, a member ofthe Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees, was apparently part ofthe bi-partisan Congressional group slated to meet with White House officialsMay 1 to discuss the issue and begin working on development of a compromisebill.
Nelsonnoted that he believes agriculture disaster assistance will have to be includedin any final version of the supplemental spending bill primarily on thestrength of the support it received while passing both chambers of Congress.
Nelsonsaid that he planned to discuss the agriculture disaster issue during themeeting with White House officials and that he would also work the raise theissue with the President directly if necessary.
Fornow the best that can be offered to farmers and ranchers in need of disasterassistance is that Congressional leaders seem to be solidly behind theinclusion of an agricultural disaster assistance package.
Wherethe process goes from here is still unresolved, but it appears that both WhiteHouse and Congressional leaders are in the mood to seek a compromise on thelegislation as soon as possible.
Itis too early to tell if this commitment will translate into a revised billbeing fashioned in short order or if a more realistic timetable will seeCongress working to get something completed before their Memorial Day recess.