McMorris Introduces Counter-Cyclical Legislation to Help Eastern Washington Wheat Growers

(Washington, D.C.) — Congresswoman Cathy McMorris (WA-05) today introduced the Wheat Counter-Cyclical Payments Enhancement Act of 2006 (H.R. 6074). This legislation requires the Secretary of Agriculture to determine counter-cyclical payments for wheat by class instead of national averages.

“It is clear that the counter-cyclical program is failing our farmers and is not providing the intended safety net,” said McMorris. “I have worked closely with our wheat growers in Eastern Washington, and after pursuing every avenue for assistance with the United States Department of Agriculture, decided it was time to introduce legislation to fix the problem. The purpose of this legislation is to enact effective counter-cyclical reform to improve the safety net for farmers and target assistance to those who need it the most.”

After enactment of the 2002 Farm Bill, USDA announced the most comprehensive adjustments in more than 15 years to the county loan rate structure for 2002 wheat crops. The restructuring of the loan rates, combined with the lack of restructuring of counter-cyclical payments, have left our wheat growers without assistance.

McMorris has worked closely with Senator Patty Murray on this issue, and have held numerous meetings with USDA officials since the start of the year.

“Never before has there been such bipartisan work between our Representative and Senator than what the Wheat Growers have observed,” said Jerry Snyder, President of the Washington Wheat Growers Association. “We are pleased to see the respect that both have given to this problem. This is not a partisan problem, it is an agricultural problem. This bill, should it be enacted, will provide hope, a lifeline, and encouragement for wheat growers in Washington state.”

Alex McGregor, President of the McGregor Company, testified yesterday in front of the House Agriculture Committee about the positive impact of this legislation.

“The safety net has been inadequately set so close to the ground that if wheat growers qualified, they likely would have suffered irreversible financial ramifications,” said McGregor. “The loan rate for Soft White Wheat, for instance, is far below production costs. The current counter cyclical calculation, an average of all classes, is far beyond their reach. Proposed legislative action led by Congresswoman McMorris can help by allowing the Secretary discretionary authority to adjust countercyclical payments when severe imbalances among market prices of classes occur. We agree with the Secretary that wheat growers across the nation have not been able to make use of safety net help when they have needed it.”

Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Mike Simpson (R-ID) are original cosponsors of the bill.

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