Earlier this week, USDA Secretary Mike Johanns referred to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson's, D-Minn., farm bill proposal as a "missed opportunity." Now that the committee has produced its bill, Johanns has raised his assessment somewhat.
"It's gratifying to me, after spending so much time on the Farm Bill, to actually see our ideas incorporated in a mark-up process," he told reporters Thursday evening. "We're literally looking at the work title by title, and we just see a lot of USDA ideas that are there."
"Today I am very encouraged by what I am seeing," he says. Although he did not go into detail about what areas he was especially happy with, he did mention that he support the bill's option for farmers to choose a revenue-based countercyclical approach.
He still sees areas that he hopes to see changed as the bill progresses through Congress. One example is the bill's adjusted gross income cap, which prevents individuals with an AGI of over $1 million from collecting farm subsidy payments. Peterson says this cap will save the government $522 million over ten years. The administration had proposed a cap of $200,000, which Johanns says would have saved $1.5 billion.
Johanns is also concerned by the way the bill deals with loan rates, saying that generally the bill raises rates more than lowers them, and that the program is seen under international trade rules as amber box, or trade-distorting. "Raising loan rates, doing anything to increase your challenges in the amber box category, is not a step in the right direction. It will create more problems," he says.