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Ag groups meet with Hoeven on 2012 farm bill

FARGO - North Dakota farm groups pretty much agree on what they want out of the 2012 farm bill, and they made those wishes clear Monday in a discussion with Republican Sen.

FARGO - North Dakota farm groups pretty much agree on what they want out of the 2012 farm bill, and they made those wishes clear Monday in a discussion with Republican Sen. John Hoeven.

Crop insurance tops the list of priorities, farm representatives said, and other issues include maintaining the provisions of the current sugar program, promoting ag research and emphasizing international trade markets.

The conversation was one of many expected in the months ahead as federal lawmakers draft the next farm bill, legislation that will set ag policy for the next several years.

Formal work on the legislation should begin on Capitol Hill no later than February, said Hoeven, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Lawmakers hope to pass the bill by the end of this year, when the current farm bill expires.

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Consistent among the dozen farm groups that met with Hoeven was a desire for a strong safety net, but not necessarily one that relies on direct payments.

Instead, ag leaders said they're more open to a counter-cyclical program that would help farmers only when crops prices are low and aid is needed.

"We can certainly live without direct payments, but we need a good crop insurance program," said Sandy Clark, public policy director for the North Dakota Farm Bureau.

Despite general agreement on what the bill's contents ought to be, Hoeven acknowledged federal budget pressures could factor in to the bill's final make-up on Capitol Hill.

Last fall, a bipartisan group of senators proposed $23 billion in cuts to agriculture programs as part of the congressional supercommittee's attempt to trim the federal budget across the board.

Hoeven said he hopes that proposal will be the basis for negotiating the farm bill, but he said any final cuts should be proportional to how other federal departments sacrifice, too.

"I believe we can and should get a farm bill passed this year," he said, adding that the challenge will be to find compromise across both parties and among northern and southern states, where crop issues can differ.

"We really have to work with our friends in the southern part of the country to find a meeting of the minds, something that works for everybody," he said.

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On Thursday, North Dakota Republican Rep. Rick Berg will hold two similar roundtables in Bismarck and Fargo. House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., is slated to attend those and hear input from North Dakota farmers.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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