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Public Statements

Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. PETERSON. I thank the chairman.

When I was chairman and did the last farm bill, we maintained the permanent law, and we did it for a reason, which is that it is very hard to get these farm bills done, and sometimes you need some motivation to get people to move. That's the main reason we left it there.

I have a question of the author of the amendment if he would be willing to engage me in a discussion.

I guess I was curious as to why you are only repealing the dairy provision of the permanent law and not the entire permanent law. Is there some reason for that?

Mr. BROUN of Georgia. Will the gentleman from Oklahoma yield?

Mr. LUCAS. I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. BROUN of Georgia. The reason is that the milk price support is actually a ``floor'' for the cost at which the government buys surplus milk. What that will do is raise the cost that the government is going to have to pay for this surplus milk, which is just going to cost the taxpayers more money.

Mr. PETERSON. What it does is it sets the price of dairy at 85 percent of parity, and that would have been about 39 bucks. It also sets the price of wheat and corn and soybeans at anywhere from--I don't know. It's 80 to 95 percent of parity. Those prices are just as problematic. You know what happened last December. The law expired on September 30, but nothing actually happens until that current year's crop is harvested. Wheat does not harvest until May, and corn doesn't harvest until October or November, but milk is harvested every day. That's why it became an issue.

So I am against getting rid of the permanent law, but I was just curious as to why you picked on just dairy. I mean, I see your point that you're going to raise costs to the government, but if you want to really raise costs to the government, support the Goodlatte-Scott amendment because that's really going to stick it to the government.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. PETERSON. Just a point. I understand what you're saying, but you need to look at the Goodlatte-Scott amendment. What it does is allow them to buy insurance at $18 a hundredweight, and if the price goes to $11 like it did in 2009, the taxpayers are on the hook. So you've got the same problem going on with what Goodlatte and Scott are trying to do in this bill.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Chairman, I want to assure Mr. Blumenauer that the chairman and I share his concerns and philosophy. But in my judgment, this is not an amendment that is necessary because there has never been a situation that I'm aware of where the continuous sign-up has been limited by anything going on. In fact, they can't get enough continuous acres signed up to meet the goals that they've had. The same thing with the CREP acres.

So the Department has administratively always made room for any continuous and any CREP requests that are out there. There's never been a limitation. There's never been a backlog. There's never been any impediment to signing up these acres.

The issue we have now with CRP is these high land prices and high commodity prices. You're right about that. And we are seeing acres come out all over the country, and that concerns me. I've been the biggest champion of CRP, and I reluctantly agreed to lower these acres to 24 million acres because that's what's going to happen anyway. These acres are going to be reduced. But it's not going to be continuous, and it's not going to be in CREP. It's going to be in the regular CRP program. And if I could figure out how to stop that, I would. But you'd have to literally triple or quadruple the amount of money that's paid for the general sign-up in order to get those acres back into the program, given my understanding of what's going on.

So, you know, I just don't see why we need to have this in there. We have always accommodated this. If we're going to do anything in CRP, what we should be doing is figuring out how we can raise the rental rates to get the general CRP sign-up back up to where it needs to be. I'm very concerned about losing this big tract CRP because this is what has brought wildlife around the country back, and we're losing it.

Anyway, there is not an impediment to continuous or CREP, and there won't be in the future. If there is anything left over that isn't up to the 24 million acres, it's going to be out of the general sign-up. It isn't going to be out of CREP or continuous. So I oppose the amendment. I don't think there is any reason to do this because the Department has been taking care of it.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. PETERSON. I thank the gentleman.

I rise in opposition to the amendment, not that I disagree with the intent here, and I think that if you look at the EQIP program, you will see that it has primarily been utilized by smaller producers around the country. But I just want to give you an example of the real world here of how this works in my district.

We have the Sauk River in my district, which is a beautiful river that has probably 100 dairy farms located alongside this river. These dairy farms have been there for 75, 100 years. You know, these have been in the family. A lot of these farms are 50 cows, 75 cows, probably 100 cows would be the largest one. So these are small family farms. They've been in their families for generations.

The problem is that the barns and the pastures and the barnyards were located next to the river, all along this river. That's just how they did things 75 years ago. And so what happened is that river got polluted from the manure running off, and the Sauk Lake, which is a beautiful lake, became overfertilized and it grew up with weeds and so forth. And you've seen that in the Chesapeake Bay and so forth.

Well, what we did is we went in there with EQIP money and moved these barnyards and moved these cattle out away from the river. We didn't build any huge structures or anything. We built some to try to dam up things and so forth.

But the point is that, even with the limitations that we had on that of the $300,000, we still had to--this was not a cheap thing to do on these farms, and these weren't big farms. So it took us 2, 3, 4 years to move each of these operations, and to move 100 of them, you know, took us, I don't know, 20, 25 years. But we have basically accomplished that, and we've cleaned up the river, cleaned up the lake.

And if you had this amendment, we'd never be able to get that done. We wouldn't have--$30,000 a year would not get us anywhere near what we needed to do to get that accomplished in that area. And that's just one example.

So the NRCS people and the FSA people that are involved in this, you know, they monitor these things. They're kind of prioritizing where they go. And you can see, when you look at the statistics, they've been focusing on the smaller projects. But there are times when you have to deal with things that have been put out there, not because of anybody doing anything with any ill intent, it's just what they did 100 years ago, and we're trying to clean it up.

So I would caution the Members to be careful about putting any limitations on these programs because a lot of times it can have a consequence that wasn't intended. So I oppose this amendment and would urge my colleagues to do the same.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. PETERSON. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I, too, must reluctantly rise to oppose this amendment. The Hunger-Free Community Program is in the Senate bill, and I think there's wide support for this.

The problem is what's happening here with this amendment is we're taking mandatory money from the Market Access Program, which is an important program for a lot of different reasons that were discussed just in the last amendment, and we're taking money from that program, which is in title III, and moving it to this hunger-free community program which is in title IV. And I just don't think that we want to be taking mandatory money and moving it between titles.

So I think this is something we can consider when we get to conference. It's in the Senate bill. I encourage people to oppose this amendment at this time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. PETERSON. I'm not sure I'll need 2 minutes.

This is basically an earmark, and basically all kinds of people want to put in bills to allocate their money to ARS. We don't have enough research money for wheat and whatever else.

We can't be doing this because it's going against everything else that was agreed to. I thought you guys had decided we weren't going to have any earmarks, we weren't going to do these kinds of things. So I would hope that we would not support this amendment, and I join the gentleman from Arkansas in opposing it.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. PETERSON. On that last point, the University of North Dakota, one of their ag guys up there came up with a way to splice a fluorescent gene into hemp, and North Dakota is a State where it's legal. So now the hemp that grows is fluorescent. So you can clearly tell the difference between the hemp and the marijuana. So we have solved that problem through research.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. PETERSON. I thank the gentlelady.

I, too, oppose this amendment. People need to realize that the diesel engine was invented by a German fellow named Diesel, and it ran on peanut oil. It didn't run on diesel fuel. And the internal combustion engine ran on ethanol. It didn't run on gasoline. They had to reengineer those motors to get them to run on gasoline and diesel fuel. It takes a different type of engine to run those kinds of fuels.

One of the things you do with this type of a program is you help those manufacturers develop engines that can utilize the fuel. The same thing with a car engine. Down in Brazil, they're burning 30 percent ethanol with cars that are made by General Motors that are engineered to run on that fuel, and they get better mileage with that 30 percent ethanol than they get with gasoline because they engineered the engines right.

That's what we're trying to do with this program is help the industry be able to utilize these fuels which are renewable and are made by Americans and are creating jobs. So this is a good program, and I oppose the amendment.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Chairman, thank you for yielding.

You know, what this amendment's going to do is undermine the crop insurance system and take a whole bunch of people out of the crop insurance system that we need to make it actuarially sound.

Now, it was just said here that there's no other program that doesn't have a payment limit. Well, let me tell you something. Mr. Kind is cosponsor of the Goodlatte-Scott dairy provision, which has no payment limits.

The 6,000 cow dairies in Mr. Kind's district are going to get $600,000 of benefit from our subsidies in the dairy program, and there's no payment limitation. So, come on. If you really believe in payment limits, why isn't it on the Goodlatte-Scott scheme?

So this amendment undermines everything that we've been trying to do in the Agriculture Committee. We had the biggest disaster last year, drought, that we've ever had. We had no significant call for an ad hoc disaster for the first time that I can remember since I've been here, and the reason is because crop insurance worked.

Agriculture is working. In my district, we have 3 percent unemployment because agriculture is working. The one part of the economy that's actually working, and all these people that want to create jobs and want to create government programs so we can create jobs, they want to take the one thing that's working in the country and screw it up. And I'm not going to be part of it.

So vote ``no'' on this amendment.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I, too, rise in opposition to this amendment. I would reiterate what my good friend Mr. Conaway said, that we did not spend $50 million; we spent $1 million.

I was part of putting this in the 2008 farm bill. The reason is that we almost killed off the sheep and goat industry in this country. With what we did back in the nineties and so forth, there was hardly anybody left in the industry. We basically gave it away to New Zealand and Australia.

What we're trying to do, and what we tried to do in the 2008 bill for this little bit amount of money that we put in there was give this industry a chance to get back on its feet and start producing lamb products and goat products in this country instead of importing them from some other place. That's what this is all about.

You can make fun of it all you want, but at the end of the day, this is about American jobs and about keeping the production here in the United States.

Let's be clear about what this is. It is $1 million. I think it is money that's well spent. We can go into all of the reasons for the demise of the sheep industry. A lot of it had to do with what we did at the Federal level and the government level to screw this industry up, especially in Montana, Wyoming, and places like that, but we don't have time to go into all of that. This is a modest effort to help that industry get back on its feet and make sure that those jobs are in the U.S.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 1 minute.

Mr. Chairman, I would like the chairman to know that I support his efforts to keep this process moving, but I'm hearing concerns apparently on our side about the reach of amendments Nos. 79 and 82 and some potential labor concerns. I'm not exactly sure what it is. Apparently, the Natural Resources Committee has got some forestry issues.

So I inquire if the gentleman is willing to work with us in this regard. I'm not sure exactly what the concerns are.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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