Grassley Q & A: Senate Agriculture Committee



Q:  What is the Senate Agriculture Committee?

 The United States Senate divides its work into committees with the Senate Agriculture Committee handling legislation on the federal government's agricultural programs including conservation, farm commodity and nutrition programs. The Senate Agriculture Committee is also responsible for conducting oversight of the executive branch on agriculture issues, as part of our system of checks and balances. Until 1825, agriculture issues had previously been handled by the Committee on Commerce and Manufactures. The Senate Agriculture Committee was created when Senator William Findlay successfully argued that agriculture was an important segment of the economy and deserved attention on its own merits.


Q:  Are Iowans well represented in the Senate Agriculture Committee?

A:  I have served as a member of the Agriculture Committee for most of the last 20 years. As one of only two working farmers in the U.S. Senate, I work to bring common sense solutions straight from the farm to deal with problems in agriculture policies and programs. Iowa is very well represented on the Senate Agriculture Committee as I was re-appointed to serve on the panel, and Senator Harkin will again be the Chairman in the 111th Congress. I also serve on two of the Senate Agriculture Committee's subcommittees:  the Subcommittee on Energy, Science and Technology and the Subcommittee on Production, Income Protection and Price Support. My duties on the Senate Agriculture Committee blend well with my work in the Senate Finance Committee where I handle issues dealing with taxes and international trade and in the Senate Judiciary Committee where I deal with competition issues. All these issues are very important to farmers and through the committees and subcommittees, I work to make sure the Iowa family farm isn't at an unfair disadvantage against the huge commercial agriculture interests found in California and the South.


Q:  What legislation comes from the Senate Agriculture Committee?

The Farm Bill is a product of the Senate Agriculture Committee. The Senate Agriculture Committee debates the Farm Bill every five years. The latest bill passed in 2008. The 2008 Farm Bill included many reforms:


  • Eliminated the three-entity rule which producers were using to evade payment limits


  • Closed loopholes that operations used to evade payment limits and collect payments to dead farmers


  • Provided farmers more options to manage risk


  • Clarified tax reporting rules for CCC loans and certificates


  • Ended forced mandatory arbitration in growers production contracts


  • Updated provisions for self-employed farmers to pay additional payroll taxes to qualify for Social Security coverage


  • Included tax relief on CRP payments for retired and disabled farmers


  • Updated nutrition standards


  • Promoted broadband access in underserved rural areas


  • Provided for the right of action for Pigford Claims Act


I'm continually overseeing the new reforms, making sure they are implemented correctly, according to Congressional intent, and I will continue to seek additional reforms. I also look forward to working on the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act this year. The bill will touch on nutrition issues like school breakfast and lunch, day-care and summer foods programs and WIC.