By U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

Last year agriculture saw the ups and downs that are synonymous with the business.  Droughts and floods caused serious problems for some farmers, while others continued to enjoy strong prices and abundant harvests.  In Iowa we also saw farm ground being sold at record prices.

In Congress we began addressing some very important agriculture issues.  After years of delay, we passed three international trade agreements that will provide new opportunities for American agriculture.  And, we can’t forget how the deficit reduction committee forced the hand of the House and Senate Agriculture committees to begin writing a farm bill.

I look forward to a strong 2012 for farmers and a busy year for Congress.  I expect Congress to spend a great deal of time working on the 2012 farm bill.  Staff discussions have already started, and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow has indicated that we’ll begin in earnest once Congress resumes at the end of January.  There’s a lot to get done in a fairly short amount of time with a new farm bill.  More than two-thirds of the farm bill consists of nutrition funding, so in reality very little of the legislation deals with farming.  But, the remaining piece of the legislative package is a complicated set of issues that pit a number of different agricultural commodities and areas of the country against each other.  In the end, if Congress isn’t able to complete a bill this year, we’ll extend the current bill and work through it next year.

In addition, it will be crucial for us to continue our efforts examining what happened with MF Global to ensure that farmers and other investors don’t find themselves in a similar situation in the future.  I’ve been pressing for answers from MF Global leadership as well as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.  In late December I joined several colleagues pressing the Justice Department to use extraordinary efforts as it investigates whether the actions of MF Global executives related to the mishandling of customer money should result in any criminal actions.

Congress also should build on the success we had in getting the three free trade agreements passed.  The main trade focus in 2012 will likely be the Trans-Pacific Partnership, especially if Canada and Japan become fully engaged in those talks.  This potential agreement represents valuable export opportunities and could be a real boost for Iowa farmers.

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