BISMARCK, N.D. (PNS) - After more than two years of debate, it appears a new Farm Bill is headed for passage - although there are misgivings on a number of fronts. The legislation that emerged from the Conference Committee does not include proposed reforms on payment limits. They were in both the House and Senate versions, but were tossed out during negotiations, much to the ire of amendment author Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
"So how does it happen? It happens just because of, I suppose, the lack of understanding of most people ... that 10 percent of the biggest farmers get 80 percent of the benefits out of the program," Grassley said. "Now, they're going to tell you they keep payment limits in, but the limits are higher than they were under present law."
The legislation proposes billions in cuts elsewhere, including some conservation programs and $8 billion in food stamps over 10 years. Critics say, however, that without the reforms that cap farm payments, the nation's largest farms still will have access to virtually unlimited farm subsidies.
In the Midwest, Grassley said, it'll be "about status quo" going forward under the new legislation, which he also believes is tipped heavily in favor of southern agriculture.
"Cotton, peanuts and rice. With the base acres the way they are figured and with the higher target prices, I think you're going to return to the days when people are planting according to the farm program instead of the marketplace," Grassley said. "For the last 15 or so years we've been moving away from that, and I hate to move back."
The U.S. House has passed the Farm Bill, with the Senate vote to follow.
FARGO, N.D. (AP) - American Crystal Sugar Co. officials say they're worried that a slowdown in rail service could cost the company millions of dollars if it continues to disrupt production. The cooperative says it plans to scale back on output at three of its plants because it's running out of storage space waiting for rail cars.
BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth says service is being impacted by "extreme cold and winter weather conditions" in the Midwest, and the railway has put a priority on serving Crystal Sugar.
Crystal CEO David Berg says he understands that weather can be a problem but adds that it's not a "new phenomenon" in the Northern Plains and increased oil traffic has made it a "bigger pinch." Berg says Crystal does not have another viable transportation option.
(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press and Prairie News Service. All Rights Reserved.)