This is an archive page. The links are no longer being updated.
Transcript of Tele-News Conference with Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner Regarding the Statement of Administration Policy on the Senate Farm Bill
Washington, D.C. - November 5, 2007
MODERATOR: Good afternoon from Washington. I'm Larry Quinn speaking to you from the Broadcast Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Welcome to today's news conference with Acting Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner. Today's topic is 2007 Farm Bill that is being debated now in the United States Senate. This note for reporters, if you wish to ask a question please let us know that by pressing *1 on your telephone touchpad.
Now it's my pleasure to introduce Acting Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner.
SEC. CHUCK CONNER: Thank you, Larry, and I thank all of you for joining us this afternoon. I am pleased to have this opportunity to outline the Administration's very significant concerns about the Senate farm bill being debated on the floor of the Senate this week. The Statement of Administration Policy, or SAP as we refer to it, will be delivered to the Congress soon. In it we outline very serious concerns about the content of the bill put forward by the Senate Agriculture Committee.
This bill increases trade-distorting support instead of lowering it, continues a defective safety net, contains little real reform, and uses tax increases and budget gimmicks to pay for priorities that deserve to be funded in an honest fashion.
Let me begin with the funding issues. We believe this bill simply makes a mockery of the budget process. It contains nearly $22 billion in budget gimmicks, and nearly $15 billion in new taxes. This is simply unacceptable. $37 billion in budget gimmicks and increased taxes is simply unacceptable. This bill might appear to meet the pay-go rule on paper, but it certainly does not meet the spirit of this rule. Instead, it makes a mockery of the process.
The bill contains $7 billion in shifted commodity payments and another $3 billion in shifts in crop insurance payments. None of these shifts reduce the number of taxpayer dollars being spent. Shifting payments from one fiscal year to the next so those payments are outside the 10 years that the dollars are counted for budget purposes is simply and frankly dishonest.
Forcing farmers to wait for their direct payments by ending advanced direct payments after 2012 is another gimmick to push the payments out of the timeframe considered by those calculating the costs.
This bill contains nearly $12 billion in unfunded commitments. This includes $7 billion associated with the Food Stamp program and $5 billion associated with disaster assistance. This bill promises farmers that if there is drought-assistance, it is provided, unless the drought hits them in 2013 when this funding is zeroed out. They promise some of the most vulnerable people in our society additional help buying food which they can count on for five years, but those additional benefits would be taken away in 2013 under the bill as drafted because the funding is also taken away.
Congress is simply not being honest about the true cost of these initiatives. It is fair to ask whether they really intend to take away the extra benefits to farmers and the less fortunate in the year 2013. I don't think anyone believes that. Funding is removed after 2012 to make the budget books appear to be in balance.
If they were to continue the funding for these programs, since the expectation is clearly that the programs will continue, the cost of the farm bill increases by $12 billion. I do not accept that this is just the way business is done in Washington. Business as usual is unacceptable if it means being dishonest with the American people about the tax dollars we are spending. Simple, honest accounting is all we are asking for.
Regarding the increase in taxes, the Finance Committee bill which will be married with the farm bill raises nearly $15 billion in new taxes to pay for new programs. We don't believe other sectors should be asked to pay additional taxes for farm programs, especially when the current bill continues providing farm subsidies to millionaires living on Park Avenue.
And $37 billion of new taxes and budget gimmicks do not constitute wise fiscal policy and serve only to erode public support for agriculture. I believe farmers deserve a strong safety net, but Congress risks losing all support for it by refusing to focus government support where there is a true need and asking other sectors to bear the cost.
Beyond the budget issues, I must say that I am disappointed that the Senate did not do more to respond to the calls for reform that echoed across the country when we conducted our Farm Bill Forums.
For these reasons and others, the President's senior advisors will recommend a veto of the combined Senate Finance Committee and Senate Ag Committee Farm Bill. A formal Statement of Administration Policy will be delivered to Congress soon. When that happens, it will also be available on the website of the Office of Management and Budget.
Let me be very clear. I believe this bill can be changed to reflect good farm and good fiscal policy. I urge Senators to consider these concerns as they debate this bill on the Senate floor. I welcome the opportunity to continue our dialog about the bill, and I look forward to discussing these matters with United States Senators going forward. Thank you all very much.
MODERATOR: Reporters, as we prepare to receive your questions we remind you to press *1 on your telephone touchpad to indicate that you do have a question. Our first question today comes from Sally Schuff of Feedstuffs Magazine. Sally, go ahead, please.
REPORTER: Yes, thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. When you talk about changes that would make this bill acceptable to the Administration, can you be more specific on precisely what you would have to have in order to sign the bill?
SEC. CONNER: Well, Sally, we're going to be very specific when we release the SAP, but let me just say that I think we've been also very clear since January what we believe represents the reform-minded bill that we heard about as we traveled around the countryside.
Good farm policy we believe has to be one that deals with the issue of beneficial interest of farm program payments. This is an issue that has allowed producers to collect too much in payments during times when they need it the least. This is something that really does need to be reformed. We have called it the "pick your price" phenomenon, and as we have indicated this was the phenomenon that during Hurricane Katrina resulted in $3 billion of overpayments to producers.
Obviously as well, Sally, we know there needs to be tremendous work done yet on the issue of payment limits and the adjusted gross income situation in particular. Sally, a good farm bill just simply has to say to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, you are not going to be eligible for payments using tax dollars that we have taken from middle income Americans when you are some of the very wealthiest taxpayers in this country. A good farm bill cannot ignore that issue. It has got to tighten down on both the eligibility as well as the payment limit situation.
The third one I might add is that obviously loan rates and target prices can't be increased at this point. The implications of that in terms of market situation, in terms of trade policy, are just enormous. This is something we very, very strongly oppose. I have described it before as us painting a bull's eye on the back of our farmers, in effect asking others to challenge our farm programs and the legality of those. This is not the direction that we need to go with U.S. farm policy. This is not a sustainable farm policy for the future. We should not be increasing those trade-distorting supports by raising loan rates and target prices.
That's certainly the start. Obviously as well, Sally, in my statement, as I have indicated we need to be honest with the American people about the cost of this Farm Bill. Be straight up, tell them what it's costing, don't shift money around, and don't talk about taxing other businesses when we haven't even taken the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans off these programs. And certainly in this case we don't want to see our budget process really just, as I've described, be a mockery out there.
Level with the people. Let's add the real cost of this Farm Bill and $37 billion is simply too much to spend on this bill over baseline.
MODERATOR: Our next question will come from Peter Shinn of Brownfield Network, followed by Tom Karst. Peter, go ahead, please.
REPORTER: Well, thank you very much. And Acting Secretary Conner I'm wondering if you could discuss with me your strategy in getting the Administration's proposals accepted by members of the Senate. Will you be trying to work on this process as they're debating it on the Floor? Will you focus your efforts more on the House/Senate Conference Committee, do you think?
SEC. CONNER: Well, we're going to continue to work at every opportunity to communicate what we believe very strongly about and that is the need for a fiscally responsible, reform-minded farm bill. And as I indicated, Tom, in my statement, I believe we still have the opportunity both on the Senate Floor and in conference to change this bill to reflect good farm policy. The changes I will tell you do need to be significant changes because these are major problems that I have identified and that will be further identified in the Statement of Administration Policy. But we want to get the Farm Bill done absolutely in a timely way. We look forward to working with Congress to get that done, but we have a long way to go here.
MODERATOR: Next question comes from Tom Karst of the Packer Newspaper, followed by Matt Kaye. Tom?
REPORTER: Yes, hello, Acting Secretary. This is Tom with the Packer. I had a question about the fruit and vegetable program, and I wondered what the Administration's position is on the $1 billion that Senator Harkin has put up for the program and if you have any philosophical objections.
SEC. CONNER: Tom, let me just say that provision for the fruit and vegetable exclusion, in my understanding, is that we're still dealing with a situation where that has not been corrected in the legislation. Obviously this was something we did identify as a problem area in terms of concerns that have been raised about the status of those direct payments. I will tell you that I think there will be more said in the SAP that we'll get into the specifics of this, but this is an area that we continue to have concerns with as well.
REPORTER: I don't know if you have anything specific on the fruit and vegetable program at the school level. Is there anything the Administration will say about that?
SEC. CONNER: Let me just be perfectly clear, Tom, at this point I have I think for some time been indicating that we've appreciated working with the committee up to this point and working with the House, and a lot of our priorities were here and got reflected in the bill that is going forward. Those priorities included greater consumption of fruit and vegetables, energy, rural development, conservation, those kinds of priorities.
But at the end of the day that's where the commonality ends, if you will, because the Administration put forward those priorities and, I might add, in most cases even beyond what the committee bill has done, but did so also by reforming farm programs to pay for those priorities. So as I have noted here, we see very little reform of these programs. We instead see budget gimmicks to avoid the reform in order to pay for these additional priorities.
REPORTER: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Matt Kaye of the Burns Bureau is next, followed by Gary Truitt. Matt, go ahead.
REPORTER: Yes, Secretary Conner, thanks for taking my question. Earlier this year Chairman Harkin indicated that he had spoken with former Secretary Johanns and made the argument that the Administration farm bill was not paid for either, that it was over budget. At the time I recollect the discussion was that it was over budget by about $5 billion, and later Chairman Harkin said it may have been even higher, as high as $9 billion. What is your answer to that? How do you pay for the Administration bill in terms of offsets?
And secondly, both the House and Senate bills are largely based on what you could label tax increases. How do you reconcile these two if they're both going in the same direction to pay for themselves?
SEC. CONNER: Well, I appreciate the question. Let me just say that the Administration, when we developed our farm bill and put together our priorities, we did go to the Office of Management and Budget and to the White House and asked for an additional $5 billion of new money over the baseline to spend on our priorities. And we worked very closely with the OMB director and received that additional $5 billion. Now that $5 billion came out of other federal spending. There were, across the spectrum of all the programs that we provide money for in our budget, there was $5 billion less of that that others didn't get that we were able then to put forward for what we regard as very important priorities for the President. I have spoken with you many times about what those priorities are.
Now that is very, very different action than what has occurred here in this Senate-passed farm bill. The Senate as we have noted has adopted some of those priorities, but at the same time they have paid for all their additional spending with tax increases and with budget gimmicks. And we have indicated in this case that's $37 billion of additional spending. That, again it's simply off the charts, it's too much. Certainly it's too much in the context of at a minimum they should simply be saying to the American people and to the taxpayers of the United States, what the true cost of this bill is.
REPORTER: And the House bill?
SEC. CONNER: Our farm bill didn't have any gimmicks. We certainly didn't increase taxes, and again it fit within the President's overall plan for a balanced federal budget in five years. The Senate bill fails all three of those tests.
REPORTER: And the House bill is less objectionable on tax increases?
SEC. CONNER: Well, as we indicated, I think the question was, is the House bill more or less objectionable on tax increases. We expressed strong opposition to the $7.5 billion of new taxes that was in the House-passed bill as well.
I will just tell you, as the Secretary of Agriculture I am very troubled at this notion that somehow to pass a good farm bill that we have to go ask other sectors of our economy to pony up more money. This is a bad precedent for farm bills. Passing a farm bill is a very, very difficult thing to do. When we now have the day where farm bills require us to go and ask others to dig more deeply into their pockets, to ask taxpayers to dig more deeply into their pockets, that's going to make passing future farm bills very, very difficult. I might even say it probably jeopardizes future farm bills.
That's not the direction we want to go. Agriculture should be living within a budget. They should be sending them out there to defend that budget. I think future Secretaries of Agriculture should be in a position to strongly defend the safety net. We want to defend it, but we're not going to be able to defend it if every time there's a new farm bill we've got to ask other sectors to give up more tax dollars.
MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Gary Truitt of Hoosier Ag Today. He'll be followed by Chris Clayton. Gary, go ahead.
REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Good afternoon, welcome from Indiana. Your former boss, Senator Lugar, has advanced a reform farm bill that does away with a lot of the portions of the Senate Farm Bill that you find objectionable. Are there any elements of his approach that the Administration would find acceptable in reforming the Senate Farm Bill?
SEC. CONNER: Well, Gary, I appreciate the question. Let me just say that Senator Lugar's bill does, I think, reflect something we have in common with the Administration, and that is we have identified problems in the safety net of the current farm bill. As we have indicated, the fundamental flaw with the 2002 bill is it pays farmers the most when they need it the least, doesn't pay them very much at all when they've had a crop disaster. I know Senator Lugar has indicated that's a problem that he's trying to fix with his proposals, so we share that.
Now having said that, I will tell you that Senator Lugar does, what I've read that he'll offer anyway, is propose to pay for much of his activities by decreasing direct payments.
Now we actually favor direct payments, we like direct payments, and in our own recommendations we increased direct payments because we believe they provide a good safety net to the producer, they are predictable, and provide certainty for the producer as well because they're green box, not subject to challenge in any way, and so therefore not being threatened by future actions by other countries we generally like direct payments for all those reasons.
MODERATOR: Next question comes from Chris Clayton of DTN. He'll be followed by Sara Wyatt. Chris?
REPORTER: Thank you, Secretary. I was wondering why did the Administration take two weeks to come out and make this announcement now as this bill was hitting the floor. You've had this information, and we kept getting this indication from you guys, you said no, the Senate Ag Committee is moving in the right direction. And then you come out here and really blast the bill. I'd hate to see what it would have been if you thought they were moving in the wrong direction. But why take so long and then come out right now?
SEC. CONNER: Well, Chris, I'm not exactly sure where your question is heading or what you're suggesting by the question, but let me just say that the CBO cost estimate associated with this bill has just come out in the last few days. The final bill language from the committee has just been finished literally this past weekend. This is an incredibly fast turnaround for a SAP. We just got this. I literally had some hard-working career people here at the Department of Agriculture here all weekend doing the analysis of this bill. So any implication that somehow we've been keeping our cards covered here; you're just off-target. We made a very rapid turnaround on this Statement of Administration Policy.
MODERATOR: Next question comes from Sara Wyatt, and Sara will be followed by Phil Brasher. Sara, go ahead, please.
REPORTER: Thanks, Larry, and thanks, Secretary Conner. I'm curious about political reaction to the veto threat given that most of the major farm organizations and commodity groups are at least somewhat in favor of several, I'd say the majority of the portions of this bill as well as the House bill. What kind of fallout, if any, do you anticipate from a veto going into the 2008 elections?
SEC. CONNER: Well, you know, Sara, I'm really not going to get into that. I think all of you know that my past experience through the course of six farm bills has been about getting farm bills done and completed. And there is absolutely no exception with this bill. I want to get this farm bill done. I want to get a good farm bill on its way to the President. I believe that is still an objective that is within our reach. It's absolutely what I want to do.
At the same time too, Sara, we simply can't turn a blind eye to what is going on here with all the budget gimmicks, with all the additional spending, $37 billion, with farm policy that has failed to even meet some very basic tests of reform. This is not in the right direction, and so I believe there's a strong message and a desire out there from the producers that we communicated with so thoroughly in our Farm Bill Forums, and want to see this farm bill done. But they want to see a good farm bill, as well. So I remain confident that we can get there.
MODERATOR: Philip Brasher of the Des Moines Register is next. He'll be followed by Jamie Strawbridge. Philip, go ahead, please.
REPORTER: Yes. So, Secretary, of course the President last week indicated that he was not going to accept any tax increases. Does that go for; he's got both of these bills now under veto threat. Would he veto any farm bill that included anything that you all considered a tax increase, be it the provision that's in the House bill or this one? Is that a blanket, the President will not accept anything as higher tax revenue in order to fund the farm bill?
SEC. CONNER: Well, Phil, let me answer this a couple different ways. First of all, do know, Phil that the SAP will be coming out very soon, and I don't want to preempt that by getting too far into the details here, and we will talk about the tax situation in there. Obviously you know the President's record on taxes is very, very clear at this point.
Let me just, though, underscore what I did say earlier, as Secretary of Agriculture, that I am very troubled when we cross that threshold of saying, in order to get a farm bill done that we have to have a huge tax increase, tax revenue measure in order to get those farm bills done going forward in the future. I believe thoroughly, again having been involved now in six different farm bills, that you have upped the threshold for passing a good safety net for your producer pretty considerably and made it far more difficult to have that safety net if indeed this is the direction that we're headed of having to have new revenues from other business sectors in order to pay for your farm safety net. It's not the direction we ought to be going.
MODERATOR: Jamie Strawbridge of Inside U.S. Trade is next, followed by Jerry Hagstrom. Jamie?
REPORTER: Hi. Thanks a lot. Just one quick thing for clarifying, as far as the unacceptable tax increases, is one of those the economic substance provisions that have been agreed to? Then secondly, does this veto threat, now that we've got a veto threat on both House and Senate versions, does that make it harder to complete a farm bill for farmers by the end of this year, or do you see that as having not much of an effect?
SEC. CONNER: Let me take the first part of your question first, Jamie. I will tell you again that the SAP is going to address quite directly the economic substance issue. This is an area that the Administration opposes, and again that will be clearly laid out in the details of the SAP that I don't want to preempt here before it comes out too much, but just know that that is a problem area for us. I'm sorry, Jamie, if you'd repeat the second part of your question again, please?
I'm advised the question was, does the veto threat influence the likelihood of passage this year? What I'm hoping with this statement that the President's senior advisors would recommend a veto of the Senate Farm Bill, what I am hoping with that is that it will compel Congress, the full Senate, ultimately the House/Senate Conference Committee to work with us to get an acceptable bill. That is my desire. I know it reflects the desire of the President to get this bill done, but we have to have a good farm bill, we have to have a fiscally responsible farm bill to make that happen.
Our purpose for getting out there, for talking to you today is to communicate very clearly, and our SAP will communicate very clearly, the problems of this bill and what has to occur in order to improve that bill to a point where the President can be advised, Mr. President, this is a good farm bill, a fiscally responsible farm bill. That's where we want to get. We believe we can get there in a timely way, but I have acknowledged that we've got a long way to go.
MODERATOR: Jerry Hagstrom, Congress Daily is next, and he'll be followed by Alan Bjerga. Jerry, go ahead, please.
REPORTER: Yes. Mr. Secretary, earlier you repeatedly told reporters that the Administration would never accept a disaster aid program, but yet it did end up being part of one of the supplemental appropriations bills. After those statements, aren't you worried that the Congress will not take your threat very seriously?
SEC. CONNER: Well, Jerry, let me just say on that point, and you and I have been around the track on farm bills for quite some time – I think you know that I want to work with Congress and get a farm bill done that is acceptable to the President of the United States. Our purpose in putting forward a strong SAP is to encourage Congress to move the bill to a point where we can regard it as a good farm bill and a fiscally responsible farm bill.
If that doesn't work, Jerry, I think it would be wrong for Congress not to interpret my statement and the statements reflected in the SAP, and not take them seriously. We are very serious, and I will tell you I am very serious about the desire to have a bill and get it done so that the producers will know that are also very, very serious about the fact that this bill is not there.
MODERATOR: Alan Bjerga of Bloomberg News is next followed by Bill Tomson. Alan?
REPORTER: Yes, Mr. Acting Secretary. Just one question about clarifying the Statement of Administration Policy. Your wording was that you were recommending a veto of the Senate farm bill with the finance package. Would there also be a veto recommendation if it was simply the Senate bill and the finance package was not attached to it?
My second question is slightly different than the normal tenor of conversation we've been having here. I want to ask you a question about food safety. Senator Durbin is going to be proposing an amendment that would sunset all food safety agencies. With the recent food scares, do you feel there's more pressure on the Administration to make some sort of food safety reorganization?
SEC. CONNER: Alan, that's a lot of questions here. Let me take the second half of your question here first, Alan, and with regard to the food safety issue at this point, and then Senator Durbin's amendment. I'm not aware that we've seen Senator Durbin's amendment at this point for the sunset. We've heard about it but obviously have not seen a thing in that regard, so I'm hesitant to comment on something that we haven't even seen and really only just heard small amounts about.
So I'll probably just not comment specifically on that. As you know, we continue to work very hard on the food safety front, and we have our Import Safety Working Group that has been meeting on this. You were a part of that group that gathered at the Department of Agriculture with Secretary Leavitt. We're going to be coming out with some recommendations on that fairly quickly from the Food Safety Working Group. So we're always looking at this situation, always looking to improve. I do want to underscore, Alan that I do believe we have a very safe food supply in that regard. We have a great working relationship with FDA. And I think I'll just stop on that point and defer until we would actually see something from Senator Durbin.
The first half of your question about the farm bill veto threat without the tax provisions, first of all I'm not going to speculate on what a SAP would say with something that is only hypothetical because SAPs as you know are very specific to legislation that has been approved by the committee. You know though, Alan, that we do have significant concerns with the farm policy aspect of the Senate Agriculture Committee bill, and the failure of that committee bill to really make any serious reform efforts at all, particularly as it relates to the payment limit, AGI issue.
We just simply think when you're in the classification of the wealthiest 2 percent of the U.S. tax filers, you've got to be taken off direct income subsidy, pure and simple. The committee bill is not even close to that. As a matter of fact with the soft caps basically you could have virtually unlimited income totally. If it just happens to be from the right sources. So you could literally be the absolute wealthiest American in existence and continue to use tax dollars that we collected from hard-working middle class people to further your wealth. And that is wrong. It's just simply wrong. And those kinds of issues, as long as they exist in the bill, we're going to have some serious concerns.
Do know though, Alan, our SAP will go to the combination of the farm policy part, the tax part, all the issues relative to the moving of the dollars around, that kind of stuff. And we'll look at the whole package.
MODERATOR: Bill Tomson of Dow Jones has the next question followed by Jamie Gabbot. Bill, go ahead.
REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, I just was hoping you could clarify something for me. You said the President's advisors would suggest a veto. Now if I understand correctly, you're a cabinet member, and you are his chief advisor when it comes to agriculture, so I'm just – you are advising the President to veto this bill if it passes like it is? I just wanted to make sure I understood that correctly.
SEC. CONNER: Clarification, Bill. The SAP will be read by the President's senior advisors. I am one of the President's senior advisors, and yes I would and am fully supporting the recommendation of those senior advisors without hesitation.
MODERATOR: Next question comes from Jamie Gabbot, and will be followed by Derek Cane. Jamie?
REPORTER: Yes. Senator Harkin's bill includes a livestock title including such provisions as banning packers from owning livestock and a new system for small plants to be able to ship meat across state lines and also the language on country of origin labeling. Does the Administration have any quarrel with any of the livestock title in the Senate bill?
SEC. CONNER: Jamie, the SAP will address these issues. There are several provisions in the livestock title of that so-called "livestock title" of that bill that the Administration does oppose. I would just add we again try not to get into too much of the weeds on it and let the SAP speak for itself. But we do strongly oppose that so-called "special counsel" for competition provision. We really believe that provision works adversely. We also would strongly oppose the prohibition of any packer ownership or provision regulating production contracts of any kind that may or may not end up being part of this package as well.
Country of origin labeling, I think you know the Administration has a long record of opposition to mandatory country of origin labeling. This is an area where we have said though that we're going to administer what Congress has passed, and there have been some changes that while we're still opposed we would acknowledge and make it a little bit more administratively workable for us.
MODERATOR: Our final question today comes from Derek Cane. Go ahead, Derek.
REPORTER: Thank you. You know the Farm Bill has the support of almost every major agricultural group. Now given that, are you telling those groups that they basically don't know what is good for farm policy, first? And then secondly, I'm intrigued with the senior advisor question from the other reporter. I'm wondering if you can tell me who those other senior advisors are, and if you can't or won't, tell me why you can't or won't.
SEC. CONNER: Well, in terms of the farm groups, let me just say that one of the reasons we're talking to you today is, I think everyone including farm groups including all Americans, need to understand that when you get into the details of this Senate-passed bill, that while there may be scorekeeping situations where it doesn't show up, that without dispute there is $37 billion of additional spending in that bill. And, now the farmers I know, and I believe the farm groups I've been affiliated with in the past, they are fiscally conservative people. They don't like a lot of excess government spending. As a matter of fact they are very prudent with their dollars, and very tight with their dollars if you will, as they should be.
And I think the message out there that somehow a bill that is being delivered to them as budget-neutral, within pay-go, however it is they want to characterize it, that as they learn that, no, that's really not the case. As a matter of fact, hidden in here through taxes, hidden in here through budget gimmicks, all this timing of payments issue, hidden in here is savings from Food Stamps that will never materialize at all. This has been a big, big part of the Senate bill where they terminate programs that they know are not going to be terminated because the expectation is that Congress then would have to come back and end that termination. But by terminating it you get to claim savings.
Look this is no credit to the farmers and the farm community out there that I am familiar with. They are straight-up people. They want their government to pay straight up. And when something is going to cost, they want people to say, this is what it's going to cost. That's what we're trying to do here in this effort to get out and actually provide the facts with regard to this bill.
And I finally just simply add, our farm bill proposals came directly from the listening sessions where we were out there. The thing that made those listening sessions great was that every producer was treated the same, whether they were part of a farm organization or part of no organization at all. They came to the mike, they were given the same amount of time, they stood in line to provide us not only what they liked about the current farm bill but the problems that they saw with the current farm bill.
Our farm bill proposals reflected our best effort to take the problems that were identified, to improve the safety net, to have a better farm bill, and put those out there for the Congress to consider.
MODERATOR: Acting Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner.
I'm Larry Quinn bidding you a good afternoon from Washington.