MORRIS, Minn. - The 2012 Farm Bill could be passed in June, if partisan politics don't stall the measure on the House or Senate floor, U.S. Representative Collin Peterson said in an interview last week.
The Senate Agriculture Committee has finished holding hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill and is expected to start making revisions soon, Peterson said. Once the Senate committee is finished, the House Agriculture Committee will take up the bill before it is sent to the Senate floor. Peterson said he hoped the bill would be on the floor by May to be passed in June or July.
"I'm really not worried about getting the bill done in either committee, but the floor is going to be a bigger challenge in both the Senate and the House," said Peterson.
"The leaders of the Ag Committee want to get this one. The leadership in Congress wants to get this done. The administration, [Secretary of Agriculture] Tom Vilsak wants to get this done, so we should be able to get it done," said Peterson.
However, the political divisiveness in Congress could make passing the bill more difficult.
"It seems like everything that comes to the floor gets drug into some kind of partisan deal," said Peterson. "We keep that out of the committee, but it's possible that when we get to the floor we get drug into something."
One of the political issues that could hold up the Farm Bill is food stamps. Peterson said some members of Congress want to make changes to the program like require drug tests for everyone in the program or switching to a block grant system to administer the program.
A big part of the bill that Peterson has focused on is a major revamping of the dairy program.
"The current system just doesn't work," said Peterson. "We've been going through this volatility in the dairy market for the last 10 years."
The current price support system and Milk Income Loss Contract program are not working, said Peterson. Both of those programs will be eliminated and replaced with an insurance system where dairy producers will be able to insure the difference between the cost of feed and the price of milk. At the highest level of coverage, producers will be able to be guaranteed to break even.
The program also includes a provision that would offer insurance to all farmers for 40 percent less for the first four million pounds of production. As a result, farmers who have less than 325 cows will be able to buy insurance "relatively cheap" said Peterson.
The committee has also agreed not to make any changes to the crop insurance program. Peterson said the goal is to see the impact of prior cuts before making any more changes.
"From what I can tell, talking with farmers, they're relatively happy with the direction that we're taking, at least in my district," said Peterson.