Wednesday, Peterson told Agriculture Online that writing a new farm bill will be his top priority, and he expects it to look a lot like the 2002 farm bill. Any change will be "kind of on the margin," he said.
After participating in House Agriculture Committee listening sessions of farm policy this year, Peterson is convinced that farmers don't want radical changes. "What we heard around the country is that basically, people like the current bill. And I like the current bill," he said.
Although some farm groups have called for an extension of the 2002 farm bill, Peterson sees that only as a last resort. "That would only happen if we couldn't get anything else done," he said. The new farm bill, "is going to basically look like what we have," he said. "We are going to tinker with some of this stuff. We're not going to get rid of the safety net."
Peterson said that he believes the demand for biofuels will keep prices of corn and other commodities at higher levels, which could lead the Congressional Budget Office project less need for spending on commodity programs in its baseline for farm program spending. If that happens, then he hopes to restore funding that has been cut for other 2002 farm bill programs in conservation and agricultural research.