By Andrea Johnsonn
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) is hoping the farm bill will pass ahead of Farmfest, Aug. 7-9.
The U.S. House Ag Committee Ranking Member held a media phone call ahead of farm bill visits to western Minnesota that occurred May 21-25.
He visited the towns of Crookston, Hallock, Fergus Falls, Melrose, Pipestone and Olivia.
"We are in imminent mode here to finalize the farm bill for this year," Peterson said on May 18.
The Senate moved the farm bill through committee, and the bill is expected to come to the floor for a vote in early June.
The House worked on a baseline bill during the week ending May 18.
"The idea in the House is to start the mark-up around June 18," Peterson said. "It will be difficult to get the bill across the floor without people doing damage to it in the House, but we believe we can do it."
He hopes the Senate and House versions will reach the Conference Committee by July, with passage in early August.
He added that the House version is very similar to the farm bill developed for the Super Committee last December.
In that bill, Peterson, Congressman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Senate Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Ranking Member Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) worked together to reduce farm bill costs by $23 billion.
"We were the only committee to offer cuts in a bipartisan, bicameral way," said Lucas in a news release, dated March 8, 2012. "Although our combined effort was ultimately cut short by the failure of the Super Committee process, we did establish a valuable blueprint for moving forward this year."
Peterson thinks a $34 billion cut will be needed to get the bill through the House -- so $11 billion more will most likely be cut from the Super Committee farm bill proposal.
For the 2012 farm bill, Conservation and Rural Development areas do not seem contentious, however, the commodity title and nutrition areas have differences between the House and Senate versions, said Peterson.
"The Senate has decided to get rid of the target price concept and the counter-cyclical payments and going to an average crop revenue system. In the House, it is unanimous that we think that is a mistake," Peterson said.
"We think it is a mistake to manage these programs based on good times. That's what we think the Senate is doing. We need to be more concerned about what is going to happen when we have bad prices, which we all know will come at some point."
Peterson wants to see price protection afforded by the target price program.
"We are providing crop insurance relatively inexpensively," he said. "If we add revenue on top of that, then we have people on the House side that are concerned it interferes with crop insurance -- duplicates crop insurance."
He added that he is optimistic about getting a farm bill completed by Sunday, Aug. 5.
"If we get beyond the elections, my optimism reduces significantly (for completing a farm bill this year). I think if we don't get this done, we have big problems," said Peterson. "If the Senate can move this the first part of June, we can move this over here, and we can get this done."