The farm bill proposal presented Jan. 31 by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns falls considerably short of maintaining the viable safety net now in place for farmers, according to USA Rice Producers’ Group Chairman Paul Combs.

Combs says the safety net, as provided in the current farm law, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, works effectively for consumers and taxpayers, as well as farmers, and has provided fiscally responsible policy, with savings in farm commodity programs projected at $25 billion over the six-year life of the law.

“The secretary’s proposal establishes further restrictions on eligibility for participation in commodity programs that would be entirely unworkable for U.S. rice producers,” said Combs, a rice producer from Kennett, Mo.

“We have consistently expressed our support for maintaining current farm policy comprised of the three-pronged safety net of marketing loan, direct payment and counter-cyclical payment programs.

“While some of the farm bill proposal may seem consistent with that position, other parts of the proposal cause great concern — such as the change to ultimately lower the loan rates for some commodities and the modification of the counter-cyclical program — and will weaken the safety net for rice.

“We look forward to working with congressional agriculture committees as they work to develop a viable farm policy,” Combs said.