Grassley: Don’t tinker with the Farm Bill
By BILL SHEA
WASHINGTON – A $3 billion cut to the federal crop insurance program has apparently been averted, but U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley is urging lawmakers to refrain from any other action that would change the 2014 Farm Bill.
Grassley, the Republican who is Iowa’s senior senator, talked about the Farm Bill, and other issues, including juvenile justice reforms he helped to write, during a Dec. 3 telephone interview.
The interview took place shortly after Grassley took to the floor of the Senate to ask his fellow legislators to avoid what he called “reopening the farm bill.”
According to the senator, a budget deal would have cut $3 billion from the crop insurance program. In his floor speech, he said that move was “almost universally opposed by rural America.”
During the interview, Grassley said that money will be restored in another bill now pending in Congress.
However, he said an omnibus spending bill now in the House of Representatives reauthorizes commodity certificates which he described as a “way around” farm program payment limits. He said the House bill directs the Department of Agriculture to administer commodity certificates as they were administered in 2008 when they were not subject to payment limits.
“That is opening up the farm bill,” he said that afternoon.
In an unrelated matter, Grassley and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, co-authored a juvenile justice reform bill that does these things:
- Revises and extends authorization for juvenile justice programs.
- Prohibits states from locking up juveniles for running away, curfew violations or truancy.
- Provides enhanced accountability and oversight for grants.
- Requires the U.S. Department of Justice to provide training and technical assistance to the states.
- Provides additional screening and treatment for children with mental health or substance abuse issues.
- Bans the use of shackles on pregnant girls being detained.
The bill was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 23, but hasn’t advanced since.
“I’m a little embarrassed that we don’t have it to the president by now,” Grassley said. “I think we’ll get it to him early next year.”
Grassley said he would be in favor of the Federal Reserve Board raising interest rates when it meets later this month.
“They should do it and they should do it cautiously,” he said.
The senator said a proposal that would allow 18-year-olds to drive trucks on interstate routes has apparently fizzled out. He said it was to be brought up as part of a highway bill, but it was not.
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