Although he has not had a chance to review all the details of the Senate Farm Bill put forward this week by Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, acting Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner is pleased with the direction it seems to be taking.
"Many of the public comments we have heard from Chairman Harkin and others, do suggest that a lot of the priorities that we put forth in our farm bill proposals have been picked up in this bill," Conner says.
Among the priorities that Conner mentioned were the stronger conservation program, the rural development title and higher funding for bio-energy research and commercialization activities with a lot of focus toward cellulosic ethanol.
The optional, state based, revenue counter-cyclical program that is part of the bill is similar to one proposed by the administration. This program, called the Average Crop Revenue Program allows producers the option to choose either a traditional farm program or a revenue protection program.
"The revenue based plan would really be there for farmers during the years that they needed it most," Conner says.
The committee mark-up of the bill is scheduled to start next Wednesday and Conner still sees the possibility of completing a farm bill this year.
"Certainly we are willing to work with the Congress to make sure it is a good farm bill, acceptable to the Administration and get that in a very timely way," Conner says.