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Ryan Johnson, Published June 30 2012

Peterson: House farm bill includes more cuts than Senate version

MOORHEAD – The final details of the House’s 2012 farm bill were “settled” last Thursday in the Agriculture Committee, ranking Democrat and Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson said Saturday.

But during a news conference at the Hjemkomst Center, Peterson said the bill will contain “significantly more” funding cuts than the $23 billion already cut in the Senate version that passed June 21.

While he said there is enough support to pass the bill out of the Agriculture Committee, a vote now scheduled for July 11, Peterson said the next federal farm bill still faces its “own challenges” in getting through the House.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., praised the Senate version as a “good, strong bill” that eliminated direct payments, bolstered crop insurance and maintained the sugar program.

She said the bill had strong support in the Senate – it passed 64-35 – because of its $23 billion in cuts, with $16 billion coming from farm programs despite 86 percent of the bill’s overall funding going to nutrition and conservation programs.

“That was a very strong argument that had to be able to garner support from senators that were from states that didn’t have a lot of farming,” she said.

But Peterson said the House version will increase those cuts, primarily to nutrition programs, as a way of gaining more support from Republicans.

“It is going to make a lot of Democrats angry; it will make the Republicans a little more happy, but for some of them, it still won’t be enough for them,” he said. “But it’s something I think that is justified and we can live with.”

Peterson said because of terms of the committee discussions, he could not disclose the full bill details.

But he said the language of the bill should be made public Thursday or Friday, and he expects it to move ahead with the markup July 11 and pass the committee on a voice vote.

After that, Peterson said he will give Republican leaders “a couple days” to schedule it for a full vote on the House floor because it needs to pass by Aug. 3, when Congress will break for the August recess, in order to be enacted before the current farm bill expires Sept. 30.

“But if they don’t give us some indication of putting this on the floor, then I’m going to turn the heat up, and if I have to, I’m going to spend all day every day calling every farm radio station in the United States in every state and ratchet up the heat on them, and I encourage everybody else to do that as well,” he said. “I think that in the end, they’ll come around.”

If the bill passes the full House, it would then go to a conference committee to work out the differences in the Senate version.

Klobuchar said she will try to keep pressure on the House by arguing the farm bill is important for the entire country, not just states that rely heavily on agriculture like Minnesota.

“The last thing we want to do is be dependent on foreign food like we’re dependent on foreign oil,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587