Chambliss: Ag Bill Will Be Difficult; A Tight Federal Budget and World Trade Organization Rules Are Factors, He Says

Article excerpt

Byline: WALTER C. JONES

The chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said updating agriculture policy will be hard next year because of a tight federal budget and recent trade agreements.

"It's going to be the most difficult farm bill to write of any we've ever written," he said.

In the meantime, he plans to draft a drought-relief bill when he returns from the election recess. He says he would prefer that the next farm bill have a workable, permanent mechanism for dealing with weather disasters, but that was attempted in the current farm bill.

The market basis for the current law works for most situations, providing support when prices dip below certain levels, but it didn't adequately aid farmers who completely lost their crops because of drought or flooding.

Passing the current law in 2002 was relatively simple because the federal government had a surplus, making it easier for producers to lobby for the funding to back the price-support and conservation programs. The market orientation of the law saved taxpayers $13 billion in its first four years compared with the bill that preceded it.

Next year's tight federal budget will make for some uphill battles in Congress. And the farm groups recognize the challenge.

"We know that the struggle is going to get tougher simply by virtue of the population shift [off the farm to other careers]," said Bryan Tolar, vice president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council.

Complicating the lobbying is the quirk of the yields of the past two years. …