By The Associated Press
July 02, 2012
NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s agriculture commissioner is speaking out against a farm bill recently passed by the U.S. Senate.
The News-Star reported that Mike Strain railed against the bill at the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention being held in New Orleans this weekend.
“We must find a way to make it more equitable,” Strain told the convention Friday. “The South wasn’t treated fairly in the Senate version.”
He said the bill favored producers in the Midwest and West. He warned that rice farmers would suffer if the bill was passed unchanged.
The Senate passed a version of the farm bill this month and the bill moves to the U.S. House of Representatives next.
Both Louisiana senators, Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican David Vitter, voted against the version that passed the Senate.
Strain said rice farmers would suffer a 60 percent decrease in funding under the bill.
The bill ends direct payments to farmers regardless of whether they plant crops, sets up new crop support programs and reduces the federal deficit by $23 billion over the next 10 years.
Strain said there was hope that affordable crop insurance would provide a new safety net.
“But one of the amendments in the bill charges farmers with $750,000 or more in gross revenue — a 15 percent surcharge on the insurance,” he said.
“Farmers paying $750,000 or more in gross revenue account for about 80 percent of the food produced.”
U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, said he expects the House to take up its version of the farm bill on July 11.
“We know there are concerns about how the bill treats rice production, and that’s very important to us,” Alexander said. “It’s obvious that direct payments are a thing of the past, but we’re hopeful an insurance program can be crafted to help offset that loss.”
Strain told Louisiana farmers they must make their voices heard.
“We must stand up collectively to fight and make sure this farm bill is done right,” he said.