When Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns made the rounds at the Farm Progress Show earlier this week, he talked with radio journalists doing live shows. Each asked him about extending the current farm bill versus crafting a new bill and Johanns first reply is usuall "that's easier said than done." The secretary would then go on to discuss some specific areas he sees for change.
The message ended up in Washington on Thursday when Johanns spoke to the Cato Institute - a policy research group. During his talk, Johanns reiterated his statements that the United States must reform its ag policy even if talks in the World Trade Organization are stalled.
Johanns points out that program crops get a majority of the ag funds, but there are a lot of non-program crops that could benefit from a new farm bill. Johanns told the Cato meeting that the administration might submit its own farm bill proposal but not before January 2007.
The Washington File, a Bureau of International Information Programs publication, reports that Johanns says reform is necessary because current farm programs distribute much money to relatively few large producers and for selected crops. Johanns also notes that some current farm bill features including countercyclical and marketing payments are vulnerable to legal challenges in the WTO.
Johanns has told farmers in the past that a comprehensive approach is needed to the farm bill including energy and trade policies that offer more opportunities.