Ill. Senator Durbin pushes for reforms in farm bill

By Dennis Conrad

WASHINGTON – Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said Wednesday he is pushing for federal farm-support programs that offer protection based on revenue, not just market prices.

The Senate’s second-highest ranking Democrat, along with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced a proposal that would replace what Durbin said is a wasteful price-support system with one offering comprehensive revenue protection.

The senators said the measure aims for a better safety net for farmers.

Under the proposal, the government would make a payment when a farmer’s revenue falls below 90 percent of the forecast revenue for a specific crop. Private insurance would cover a farmer’s individual revenue losses beyond what the government covers.

The senators said the current support system sometimes fails farmers who face real revenue losses when commodities’ prices are high but yields are low.

“If market price isn’t the only factor that affects what a farmer makes, it shouldn’t be the only factor on which we base commodity calculations,” Durbin said in urging a revenue-driven approach.

The measure, which has the support of major farm groups in Illinois, is expected to be of significant financial benefit to farmers growing corn and soybeans.

Last year, Illinois had 12.9 million acres of planted corn, about one-seventh of the U.S. total, and 8.7 million acres of beans, one eighth of the nation’s total.

Durbin said in these difficult times for the federal budget, the proposal has the additional benefit of no additional cost for the government because it corrects existing inefficiencies.

The legislation is expected to be taken up in September by the Senate Agriculture Committee, where Brown predicts it will have a “good shot” at passage.