U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman's proposal for our nation to dramatically cut farm subsidy programs as a way to facilitate World Trade Organization ag trade reform talks has definitely fostered talk both at home and abroad. The question is "What has been the reaction?" The answer is very mixed. Maybe the best illustration of the up in the air across the board reaction comes from members of Congress. House Ag Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte of Virginia agrees with the U.S. stance that for our nation's bold proposal to work, the European Union will have to cut their farm support subsidies at even deeper levels. But those words came on the same day his Senate counterpart, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, wrote a letter to U.S.D.A. Secretary Mike Johanns urging U.S negotiators to take a stand of no net reductions in American producers' farm safety net, and not to allow W.T.O. negotiations to dictate how Congress is to write the 2007 Farm Bill. The opposing views of Goodlatte and Chambliss are shared by many within agriculture&some within the same organizations. For example, the National Association of Wheat Growers says they like the call for increased market access but not at the expense of dramatically cutting farm support subsidies. The National Farmers Union called the Portman proposal "risky", and said unless developed nations cut their subsidies at a more dramatic rate, and developing nations allow greater access, the U.S. gains very little by this deal. And Rosemarie Watkins of the American Farm Bureau Federation says the Portman plan is challenging, but doable, especially in the context of how W.T.O. negotiations and the next Farm Bill seem to be interconnected in some aspects.
WATKINS: To the extent that they are certainly being discussed together and parallel tracks, certainly, there is going to be some influence. I think however, depending on what you do, you can allow flexibility in the next Farm Bill.
And Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley believes the Portman proposal will not be as grave to farm support payments as one might think, as they will be shifted to other forms of the farmers' safety net.
GRASSLEY: It means we would make more payments to farmers based on conservation, based on direct payment, but not on loan deficiency payments or the loan program.
And while Grassley and others call for a shifting of counter-cyclical payments from Amber to Blue box status within the W.T.O., Johanns has ruled out that option, calling it too difficult. In our next program, what does the world say about the Portman proposal?