Concerns over USDA Changes to LDP

May 21, 1999

Deep Concerns over USDA Changes to LDP

Ag Chairman, Vice Chairman tell Ag Secretary, "First, do no harm

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX) and Vice Chairman Bill Barrett (R-NE) have expressed their deep concern to Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman regarding the timing and process for his contemplated changes to the Loan Deficiency Payment (LDP) program.

"U.S. farmers and those in Congress who care about agriculture rightly expect and deserve your assurance that any changes to this program will, first, do no harm," the  Committee leaders wrote to Glickman.

"Mr. Secretary, we believe it is a fundamental mistake in the development of policy to move forward with what are rumored to be drastic changes to a program critical to the farm safety net without first seeking input from those your decision would most profoundly impact," Combest and Barrett stated in their letter.

The letter to Secretary Glickman continued: "We are also deeply concerned about the timing of a change in the LDP program and the inequity and confusion such a change might cause.  First, planting season is in full gear.  With planting decisions based in part on farmers' understanding of the current LDP program and the marketing protection it offers, we question the fairness of a policy that would change horses mid-stream."

"Mr. Secretary, we also fear that with few readily identifiable benefits and plenty of downsides, a change in the LDP program at this time lends itself to the criticism that such a change is more about making life easier at the Department than about strengthening the safety net for farmers."

"Finally, it has been reported that the proposed changes to the LDP program might create winners and losers in farm country.  We believe that everyone on the Committee would agree that any change that would result in a weakening of the farm safety net is a non-starter."

Offering two guiding principles for any decision relative to the LDP program, Combest and Barrett  wrote that any modifications must meet the legal requirement to minimize forfeitures and the accumulation of stocks.  Secondly, they emphasized that any change in the LDP program should be fair and work to strengthen the safety net for all the Nation's farmers.

Combest and Barrett suggested the Agriculture Committee serve as a forum for a complete review and explanation by USDA of any changes to the LDP program before such changes are implemented.

Additional information: Followup letter to the Secretary on May 27