Thune hopes for farm bill by next week
"I would really like to see the conference committee wrap this up this week and put it on the floor of the House and Senate next week. We'll see if that's an attainable timeline," Thune said.
Thune said he's not too optimistic that his wish will come true, as the conference committee still is working out differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation.
"It's hard to know what's in there. They're playing it pretty close to the vest," Thune said.
He's not sure he will vote for the final bill even though it contains some provisions he helped to craft. He cited concerns over a lack of reform in how farmers are paid for commodities such as wheat, corn and soybeans.
As he understands it, the conference committee has agreed on what Thune called high target prices. He would favor a more market-based system.
"That is a real missed opportunity," Thune said. "It relies on high fixed target prices set in statute by Congress. That's very far afield from the mark-oriented reforms I had hoped would be included. We need to be looking at the future of agriculture, not the past. This takes us back to the farm policy we saw back in the 1980s. It's an antiquated framework."
Thune did not vote for the bill that passed the Senate. But, he said, farmers and ranchers need certainty.
Thune said he also is worried about conservation programs that would preserve wetlands and wildlife habitat, including for pheasants. He was less sure exactly how those provisions will look in the final bill.
He said he understands the current impasse is over dairy provisions in the legislation.
The previous farm bill expired in October, itself a one-year extension of the previous bill. Without a new bill soon, milk prices could skyrocket and a set of laws from the 1940s would rule America's agriculture industry.