Peoria Journal Star

January 16, 2007

Corn growers back revenue safety net

Illinois group to lobby for policy shifts in federal farm bill revision



WASHINGTON - As Congress prepares to rewrite the farm bill, officials at the Illinois Corn Growers Association are advocating a shift to a revenue-based safety net, policies that are more trade-friendly and a continued emphasis on biofuels.

"The majority of growers believe that federal farm policy shouldn't guarantee producer profitability, but rather provide more of a reasonable financial safety net based on low income rather than low prices," association President Steve Ruh, of Sugar Grove, said Monday.

The group announced its formal support for the revenue-based safety net concept last November, after surveying its members by mail and in listening sessions last fall.

The idea is to replace price-based subsidies with subsidies that would be based on farm revenue, factoring in production, price and farm costs.

The National Corn Growers Association has been working on a revenue-based approach but hasn't formally endorsed a plan yet. The Iowa Corn Growers Association also has endorsed the concept, which Ruh said bolsters the Illinois group's position when lobbying on Capitol Hill.

The majority of association members also believe market access and a trade-friendly farm bill - one that would be acceptable to U.S. trading partners - will be critical to the profitability of Illinois corn growers.

Canada has recently announced a challenge to U.S. subsidies for corn and other crops in a petition with the World Trade Organization.

The Illinois corn growers also showed strong opposition to reducing funding for farm program payments in order to fund a permanent disaster assistance program, as some key congressional leaders have advocated.

Growers also support efforts to put more emphasis on biofuel programs in the new farm bill, Ruh said.

Corn growers, like other farm groups, expect there to be less money available for farm programs given the cost of the war in Iraq and Democrats' pledge to address the federal deficit.

The Bush administration is expected to make its proposal for the new farm bill in late January or early February. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns frequently stresses conservation, rural development and renewable energy.

Dori Meinert can be reached at (202)737-7686 or