New chairman of Senate Agriculture Committee holds first news conference since becoming chairman.

In his first news conference since taking over as chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), pledged to rewrite agricultural support programs that expire next year.

Although he did not set a timetable for writing a new farm bill, Harkin did say he wanted to “keep what has been good,” about the Republican-authored 1996 farm law while providing better support for farm income and steering more money into land conservation programs.

Harkin outlined his position on these key items:

  • States should not be allowed to fix milk prices on a regional basis.
  • Subsidizing farmers for good environmental practices should be a key part of the new farm bill.
  • The existing Conservation Reserve Program should be expanded from 34 million to 40 million acres. The program pays producers to not farm environmentally sensitive land.
  • “Market transition” payments that grain and cotton producers have been receiving since the 1996 farm bill was passed should be phased out in favor of subsidies that are tied to annual changes in production and income.

Associated Press