Harkin pushes for conservation money

OCTOBER 17TH, 2007 | Harkin for Senate

While the Senate Agriculture and Finance Committees continued to work on a dollar amount and funding mechanism for the new farm bill, some items began to take shape this week, including the possible future of the Conservation Security Program.

The CSP, a brainchild of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, during his stint as chairman during the 2002 farm bill debate, has been a disappointment to many, thanks to funding and implementation problems.

But, Harkin said Tuesday it will be part of his Senate farm bill.

“My goal is to get 80 million more acres into CSP by the end of this farm bill,” he said. “And, we’re going to do it.”

Harkin also said the CSP package in the Senate bill will provide for a national program, not one based on watersheds, as is the case now.

That is a very different approach from the one taken in the House farm bill proposal, which essentially froze CSP until 2012.

Meanwhile, the ag and finance committees were working this week to iron out a proposal that would provide about $9 billion in extra funding for the farm bill with about $5 billion of that to go toward a permanent disaster program being pushed by lawmakers from the northern Plains states, including Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

There has been a battle between that permanent disaster program idea and the idea pushed by the National Corn Growers Association for a revenue-based commodity program.

Harkin said his proposal for a farm bill will include an option for a revenue program.

At the same time, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, says his only concern with funding for the CSP and other programs such as the CRP is the rule limiting the amount of land that could be taken out of production in any one area be continued.

“I want to make sure we don’t concentrate it all in one area,” he told reporters this week, giving the example of areas of southern Iowa where much CRP land was taken out of production during the 1980s and 1990s.

Grassley also said he plans to continue to push for a competition title in the farm bill that includes items such as a ban on mandatory arbitration. Grassley added he does not expect a ban on packer ownership of livestock to be a part of the chairman’s markup of the bill, but said he will work to add that provision on the floor of the Senate.

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