Peterson says Farm Bill could be done by June, if not derailed by other issues
WILLMAR -- A new Farm Bill with an overhauled dairy program could be in place by early summer, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson said Friday.
However, some issues could disrupt that timeline, including an impending election and disagreements over funding for food stamp programs.
During a visit to Tribune offices Friday afternoon, Peterson said he was optimistic about getting a new Farm Bill in place later this year.
He has been working on a revamped dairy program that would get rid of price supports and the Milk Income Loss Contract program. They would be replaced by a program to provide margin insurance to help farmers break even.
The price support system needs to be changed, because it has been "getting in the way of exports," he said.
Even though he is a member of the minority party in the House, he said, he was asked to take the lead on dairy issues because of his knowledge of the area. Peterson is a former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. The Republican head of the committee doesn't have the background in dairy issues that he does, Peterson said.
The committee works in a bipartisan manner on many issues. "We work at it," he said. "It doesn't happen by accident."
This year, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly called food stamps, could create some problems.
Economic stimulus bills increased eligibility for SNAP, he said, and House Republicans want to see major cuts to the program, which costs about $70 billion a year. In the Senate, the majority Democrats want to allow minimal cuts and would prefer none at all.
The problem is likely to come when the House and Senate bills get to conference committee and there's no compromise available that would be acceptable to both sides, he said. If the bill isn't finished by early summer, work will be more difficult as the election approaches.
Peterson said he would like to see some changes that would tighten guidelines to require people to buy "real food" and not use their food support for things like candy and pop. However, soft drink manufacturers have repeatedly lobbied against such a change.
Peterson said he has been traveling through southwestern Minnesota this week to meet with some of his new constituents. His district grew by several counties and about 49,000 people when redistricting maps were released last month. The new district takes effect with the next election.