GRASSLEY: Hello there. Are you ready for me to go?
OPERATOR: Yes, you're on the line with the Farm Broadcasters.
GRASSLEY: In December the Department of Agriculture published an
interim rule in the federal register outlining changes that the
department wants to make to payment eligibility rules. I told you
then back in December that I was disappointed that the department
didn't follow the guidelines for rulemaking that I worked to have
included in the farm bill. It's an end run by the bureaucracy to try
to make significant changes to the payment limit eligibility.
So yesterday before the comment period closed, I joined Senator
Harkin and Dorgan urging the department to adopt a measurable standard
for active personal management as it applies to farm payment
eligibility. The intent of the conference committee was clear that
actively engaged was to be included in the department's rulemaking.
The interim rule as written leaves a big loophole for so-called
conference calls. These are farmers that just do a conference call.
And it makes them -- they are not farmers that are involved in the
day-to-day operation of the farm.
The farm bill didn't go as far as I would liked to have had it go
in this area, but actively engaged in an area where we made some
progress. In order for the farm bill to continue to receive broad
bipartisan urban and rural support, we need to make sure that farm
program payments serve as a safety net rather than a boon to the
biggest farmers and non-farmers.
President Obama has put payment limits reform at the top of his
agriculture agenda. I hope the president and Secretary Vilsack take
this opportunity to bring some real change to reforming farm payments.
I'm ready for questions. And I'll let you call the names.
OPERATOR: Dan Looker, Successful Farming?
LOOKER: Good morning, Senator. I wondered could you bring us up
to date on what the Senate did with President Obama's payment limit
proposal in his budget. I know the House did not include that.
GRASSLEY: It was not included in the Senate. And I offered my
$250,000 payment limitation. And it was defeated, I think, on a nine
to 14 vote in the Budget Committee. And I didn't offer it on the
LOOKER: I see. So that's essentially dead for this year? Or is
GRASSLEY: It'd be essentially...
LOOKER: ... way to bring that up?
GRASSLEY: Well, another way to bring it up would be as a writer
on the appropriation bill or if they have reconciliation to get it in
LOOKER: Do you have any plans to do this?
GRASSLEY: Even though it's not, even though it's not in the
budget, even if I got it in the budget, you know, that's non-binding.
GRASSLEY: So if a reconciliation process, which, quite frankly,
we Republicans hope that they don't use -- but if they use it, it'd be
LOOKER: Are you planning to do that, or are you waiting to see
what the administration does...
LOOKER: ... administratively?
GRASSLEY: ... on the $250,000 cap, we'll have to do it . If
it's something in regard to these rules on actively engaged, we'll
have to continue to do it like we're doing it -- is urge the
administration to get it the way Congress intended.
LOOKER: And have you heard back from the administration yet?
GRASSLEY: No, this is just recently that I did this.
LOOKER: OK, thank you very much.
GRASSLEY: In fact, I think, as I said in my statement, Senator
Harkin, Dorgan and I just at the deadline put our ideas before them.
LOOKER: OK. And have you released those? I don't know if I've
seen a press release.
GRASSLEY: Well, Casey can get them to you.
LOOKER: That would be great. Thank you very much.
OPERATOR: Tom Rider, WANX?
GRASSLEY: Tom on South Dakota, are you there?
OK, go on then.
OPERATOR: Gene Lucht, the Iowa Farmer Today?
LUCHT: No questions this morning.
OPERATOR: Ken Anderson, Brownfield?
ANDERSON: Good morning, Senator. The drum beat on climate
change legislation seems to be growing louder. And we're hearing both
positive and negatives as far as agriculture is concerned. Can you
give me your thoughts on that?
GRASSLEY: Well, for Brownfield, I'd like to say that there is on
the worldwide basis -- the clamor is getting bigger. It always big
among the liberals of the Congress of the United States. And I think
all of us are open to something being done.
But I've been finding that leadership of the Congress -- and by
that, I mean Democrat -- they tend to be saying that it's not
something that's going to come up this year. Now, when I have been
hearing that, I've been awful surprised because I thought it would be
up sometime during the summer.
But it hasn't looked like it is going to come that fast. And
you're hearing people like Senator Durbin saying that, well, maybe it
doesn't have 60 votes to override stopping debate and things of that
So to some extent, maybe the talk about it is still as loud as
ever. But I sense that it's not going to move as quickly, at least as
I thought it was. And it could go into next year.
ANDERSON: And your stance on it, any particular direction you'd
like to see it go?
GRASSLEY: Well, my stance on it is that we're better off with an
international treaty so that China, the biggest emitter of CO2 is on
the same playing field we're on. Otherwise we're going to export a
lot of our manufacturing jobs to China because our manufacturing is
going to find a cheaper place to manufacture if they're going to be
stuck with additional rules affecting their emitting.
ANDERSON: Thank you, Senator.
OPERATOR: Ken Root, WHO?
ROOT: Good morning, Senator. I wonder if you could talk
about the infrastructure projects that are being proposed by the
administration. You've said in the past that it's going to be quite a
while before they get to us. Do you still feel like it's going to
take quite some time before this money actually gets out to the
GRASSLEY: You're talking about the stimulus package?
ROOT: Yes and any forms of it.
GRASSLEY: Yes, well, I think there's a large share of it that's
still going to be a while before it gets out. But I think in Iowa
we've been fortunate that construction money for highways is going to
get out very quickly. The governor is making decisions now on
education funding and Medicaid funding, which are the other two big
pots of money. So I believe you're going to see the stimulus impact
of that taking place pretty soon.
I think with, for instance, in the state aid money -- I should
say the stimulus money that's going to go through the state aid
formula -- you're going to find some teachers that might otherwise be
laid off maybe won't be laid off. And the Medicaid money -- I think
you're going to find some cutbacks at the state level that would have
happened without the stimulus package won't have to happen now.
I think there is a caution that I need to advise state
legislators and the governor in that. And don't use this stimulus
money to get your state spending cranked up to a place where it's not
going to be able to make an adjustment in the year 2011 because I
don't see any more stimulus money coming down the road.
ROOT: Thank you.
OPERATOR: Dan Skelton in Spencer.
Todd Neeley at DTN?
Stacia Cudd, National Farm Broadcasters?
Gary DiGiuseppe, Arkansas Radio Network?
DIGIUSEPPE: I have no questions. Thank you.
OPERATOR: Phillip Brasher, Des Moines Register?
OK, I've read through the entire list. Was anyone added late, or
does anyone have a follow-up?
ROOT: Senator, this is Ken Root again.
GRASSLEY: Yes, go ahead, Ken.
ROOT: Back to ag specifically, it seems to be that this
administration is pushing very hard to make sure that those who
qualify for food aid are going to get it and in quantity. But they
have a disconnect between that and the food producer. Is that
overstating it? Do you have a concern that if they don't coordinate
the two that it could be bad for both?
GRASSLEY: Well, I think that they need to go back to the root of
the food stamp program. When Bob Dole in the 1960s was first involved
in a demonstration project that later became what we know as the food
stamp program, it was for the sole purpose of helping get rid of
surplus that agriculture was producing at that time and the government
was storing and also a rude awakening that there was a lot of hunger
in America. And that connection is very, very important. It's a
connection that you're reminded of every time we adopt a new farm bill
because every time we adopt a new farm bill, there's a continuation
and a reauthorization and sometimes an expansion of the food stamp
So that disconnect has never taken place. And I'm not sure that
I want to join the clamor that it's taking place now. I'm going to
give it to the lack of experience of a lot of people and a new
administration that maybe don't know the history of the food stamp
program being connected with farm programs and that the food stamp
program is to accomplish two goals: help reduce surplus of
overproduction by farmers and making sure we don't have a hunger
problem. But it's very, very important that that disconnect never be
ROOT: Thank you.
GRASSLEY: OK. Thank you all very much then. Good bye.