No wonder Iowans keep sending Chuck Grassley back to the U.S. Senate. Tough, tenacious, the five-term senator is everything you would want the person representing your state to be.
Grassley's payment limit amendments are a case in point. Along with North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, Grassley has introduced new payment rules five times without getting the language enacted.
But that hasn't stopped him from mounting one more effort. The Senate Budget Committee approved a FY09 budget resolution amendment to place a “hard” cap of $250,000 per person on farm program payments. Grassley and Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard offered the language.
“The farm bills that passed the House and Senate have loopholes that make the farm payment system worse than now,” Grassley said in a press release. “So, despite the fact we're in the middle of conference negotiations, I'm looking for ways to address the problems that weren't taken care of.”
Though he didn't spell it out, Grassley reportedly objects to the farm bills' removal of limits on marketing loan gains and loan deficiency payments and increases in the counter-cyclical payments farmers can receive.
In the release, Grassley said he “has been the leading advocate to ensure farm payments are directed to small and medium-sized farmers to help get them through the lean years.”
As commercial-sized farmers have learned, such comments play well in the national media, but are misleading, according to Barry Flinchbaugh, Kansas State University economist.
Speaking at a symposium at the Commodity Classic in Nashville, Flinchbaugh said small to medium-sized farmers — those with gross sales under $500,000 — actually receive a higher percentage of farm program payments than larger farming operations.
Unfortunately, Grassley has never seemed to worry about such facts when it came to payment limits, figuring instead that rhetoric — and persistence — would carry the day.
The Grassley release, forwarded by organizations such as the Environmental Working Group, claims his amendment would save $641 million over five years and $1.401 billion over 10 years (or about what the U.S. government spends every one or two days in Iraq).
In their attacks on farm programs, environmental groups and media outlets have been saying farmers have never “had it so good” because corn, soybean and wheat prices are at record highs.
What rarely gets mentioned is the dark side of the farm outlook; i.e., fertilizer prices have doubled with farmers being told anhydrous ammonia could be $700 per ton by fall. Fuel costs are soaring, and prices of equipment such as the cotton pickers manufactured in Grassley's state have been escalating.
On his Web site, Grassley notes that in his 25 years in the Senate he has earned a reputation as a voice for American agriculture. “And for as long as I have the privilege of serving Iowans in the U.S. Senate, I'll always work hard to do right by the family farmer.”
How many commercial-sized farmers wish he would stop threatening their families' livelihoods with his well-worn legislation?