Washington, D.C. — As the First Session of the 106th Congress nears its end, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX) sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman making clear his expectation that the Clinton Administration will finally deliver its long-promised proposals for strengthening federal agricultural policy.
The complete text of Combest's letter is available upon request.
Early this fall, Chairman Combest announced that the Agriculture Committee would conduct a comprehensive review of federal farm policy when Congress reconvenes next year. As these hearings would serve as an appropriate forum for the Administration to set forth its specific legislative proposals, in his letter, Combest formally invited Secretary Glickman to testify for that purpose.
"In next year's hearings, the Committee will expect every witness to present specific, detailed policy proposals, including the expected impact on all farm sectors," Combest wrote. "With the resources at your disposal and in light of the President's budget responsibilities, the Committee will also expect policy proposals by the Department of Agriculture to be reflected in the President's annual budget submission."
When President Clinton signed the current Farm Bill into law in 1996, he stated that he was firmly committed to submitting legislation and working with the Congress in the following year — 1997 -- to strengthen the farm safety net. Nevertheless, three years and four presidential budgets have passed and the President has yet to submit a specific and comprehensive proposal to strengthen the 1996 Farm Bill.
"After careful inspection of the record, I found only one significant change to the farm bill officially proposed by this Administration to Congress and that proposal was to extend the marketing loan period by six months," Combest wrote. "Yet, a six-month extension in the marketing loan period hardly constitutes the kind of sweeping policy improvements which the farmers and ranchers of this country would regard as strengthening the farm safety net. Mr. Secretary, this approach will not pass muster at next year's hearings."
"In the event the President's budget does not contain the necessary funding, any proposals you wish to make involving additional funding must be accompanied by a detailed and sufficient list of budget offsets and a 5-year budget impact analysis as is required of any measure considered by the House," Combest wrote. "It will not be possible to give serious consideration to any Administration policy proposals that do not reflect the realities of the current federal budget situation. Consequently, to ensure that your testimony is a relevant part of next year's policy debate, please give these budget requirements your close and personal attention."
"In the total absence of any specific policy or funding proposals, including required offsets, I am sure you can appreciate my difficulty in giving credence to the Administration's views on farm policy," Combest wrote. "Still, I am encouraged by your recent remarks and hope they lead to a new level of cooperation by the Administration on critical agricultural issues."