“This bill is designed in a way which keeps federal farm outlays within the budget guidelines, while aimed at eliminating the necessary annual emergency spending measures,” said the letter. “The bill also reflects most of the major provisions which were originally adopted through the House bipartisan farm bill which Mississippi farmers favored.”

The letter, signed by Council President Ben Lamensdorf and Bobby Carson, chairman of its farm policy committee, was one of a flurry of letters sent by farm organizations as the Senate began a scheduled 12 hours of debate on the conference report.

Among those was a letter signed by 30 farm and agribusiness organizations asking the Senate to pass the conference report immediately so that USDA can begin the process of implementing its new provisions.

“In response to the critical need of farmers and their lenders to immediately know the rules and regulations under which they must operate, the House of Representatives acted swiftly to adopt the farm bill conference report to H.R. 2646, by a vote of 280-141,” the farm groups’ letter said.

“With farmers in their fields now planting this year’s crop, it is imperative that the Senate also take immediate action and adopt the farm bill conference report. Adoption of this farm bill will assure them that they will have an adequate, long-term safety net in place now and in the future.”

The Delta Council letter addressed payment limits, one of the thorniest issues of the nearly two-year process of writing the current farm bill. The conference report reduces limits for each type of farm payment while retaining the use of generic certificates.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, one of the authors of the Grassley-Dorgan payment limits amendment in the original Senate farm bill, and Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., demanded 12 hours of debate on the conference report today and tomorrow.

“This farm bill clearly eliminates the farm bill clearly eliminates the farm payment devices which have been used by media moguls and professional athletes to take advantage of past farm programs,” the Delta Council letter said. “However, the measure restores those polices of the 1985 and 1990 farm laws which will help avoid repeated disaster declarations in agriculture and the need for emergency assistance.

“We hope that you will use your position of leadership in the United States Senate to bring strong support in favor of this legislation, and we remain grateful for the role of members such as yourself who have sustained the viability of agriculture in recent years while we awaited passage of farm policy reform.”

The farm groups’ letter, signed by the American Farm Bureau, American Soybean Association, National Cotton Council and the U.S. Rice Producers Group and U.S. Rice Producers Association, applauded the House for its swift passage of the conference report on May 2.

“With farmers in their fields now planting this year’s crop, it is imperative that the Senate also take immediate action and adopt the farm bill conference report,” the letter said. “It is now time to end debate as well as farmers uncertainty. We urge the Senate to adopt the farm bill conference report and send it without unnecessary delay to the president for his signature and implementation for the 2002 crop.”

Leaders of the National Farmers Union, another signing group, said delaying the conference report could jeopardize $5.5 billion in additional assistance for farmers and ranchers this year.

According to a new analysis by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri, the new farm bill would mean $5.5 billion over current law to U.S. agriculture producers each of the six years of the farm bill.

The FAPRI data demonstrated the “Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002” would increase net farm income $4.5 billion a year and significantly increase crop returns per bushel, said NFU President Dave Frederickson. The bill would also increase average milk revenue in most states.

“FAPRI also found the bill would lower the likelihood of World Trade Organization violations compared to either the House or Senate bills,” Frederickson noted.

Also signing the commodity groups’ letter were the Agricultural Retailers Association, Alabama Farmers Federation, American Cotton Shippers Association, American Society of Farm Managers & Rural Appraisers, American Sugar Alliance, American Sugarbeet Growers Association, American Sugar Cane League, CoBank, Fresh Solutions, National Association of Wheat Growers.

National Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Grain Sorghum Producers, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Sunflower Association, Ocean Spray, Inc., Rice Millers’ Association, South East Dairy Farmers Association, Southern Peanuts Farmers Federation, U.S. Canola Association, USA Dry Pea & Lentil Association, United Egg Producers and the Western United Dairymen.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com