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Peterson: Congress must take charge as farm groups disagree

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said Tuesday that it will soon be time for congressional leaders to take charge of writing the farm bill as representatives of general farm and commodity groups signaled in Scottsdale, Ariz., this week that they are still promoting their individual proposals and are not close to compromise on a comprehensive approach.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
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The bill sent to the supercommittee contained a proposal to make payments to farmers for so-called “shallow losses” that are not covered by crop insurance, another proposal for higher target prices and a separate proposal for cotton.

The American Farm Bureau Federation doesn’t like any of those proposals and has since released its own proposal for catastrophic losses. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., is also developing a proposal to continue aspects of the now-expired permanent disaster program known as SURE.

“At some point we’ve got to bring the hammer down. It’s got to be sooner rather than later,” Peterson said in a telephone interview. “Nobody knows how it is going to play out,” but it is time to move on the bill, he added.

Peterson said he expects House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., to meet with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, this week to discuss the bill. “My guess is that Boehner wants to do it,” Peterson said.

Peterson also said he has tried to convince Lucas and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., to release the language of the proposal that the leaders of the agriculture committees sent to the supercommittee on deficit reduction, but that they have refused.

“Nobody knows what was in there,” he said, citing this is one of the reasons the process has become stalled. ”I lost the battle.”