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Ag panel seeks input on farm bill

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AMENIA, N.D. - Farmers and ranchers from North Dakota and western Minnesota say they want less red tape and more fairness in the next farm bill.

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Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson of the state's 7th Congressional District and North Dakota Rep. Earl Pomeroy heard from the farmers during a House Agriculture Committee forum Wednesday at a farmstead about seven miles north of Casselton.

A dozen farmers - representing livestock owners and growers of sugar beets, soybeans, corn, wheat, barley and sunflowers - said they've been happy with recent farm bills approved by Congress but want to see improvements as Peterson, Pomeroy and other federal lawmakers begin crafting the next one.

Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has hosted similar forums in other states to gather input from rural America as he moves forward with preparations for the 2012 farm bill.

Wednesday's meeting in Amenia marked his 10th hearing on the topic.

Pomeroy sits on the House Agriculture Committee and the Ways and Means Committee - positions that allowed him to help negotiate the last farm bill.

Among other suggestions for the 2012 farm bill, regional farmers Wednesday criticized the red tape they often face when trying to participate in federal farm programs. They emphasized the need for crop insurance to provide a better safety net for all farmers.

"It's these little tweaks, these little things that could make the farm bill better," said Aaron Krauter, a farmer from southwest North Dakota and the state executive director for the Farm Service Agency.

Peterson said the sugar beet industry is in better shape for the 2012 farm bill than other industries because its federal program comes at no cost and is one that farmers say already works well.

But it might be a more difficult battle for other industry programs, Peterson and Pomeroy said, because there'll likely be no additional funding for the 2012 farm bill due to heavy pressure to reduce the federal deficit.

"The storm clouds are over the federal budget," Pomeroy said. "There's no question about it, which means that moving quickly is vitally important to securing the kind of support we're going to need to provide meaningful protections for farmers."

Peterson called Wednesday's nearly two-hour forum "one of the best" among the hearings he's held so far.

"You guys have been focused and making sense, and we'll take it under advisement," Peterson said. "We don't know exactly where we're headed yet, but we're getting a better idea every day, and we'll get it done."

Provide your farm bill feedback

The House Agriculture Committee is seeking public input and suggestions on the 2012 farm bill. Submit responses online at www.agriculture.house.gov before July 28. All comments will be included in the official committee record, which federal lawmakers will use in crafting the bill.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541

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