House Agriculture Committee Chair Peterson sees Tea Party threat to farm programs

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Sept. 23 - Cutting the ribbon to open a quarter-acre transplanted wheat field and wheat-industry displays to the public and to fellow members of Congress Wednesday, House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson (D-MN) said “one of the biggest problems that we have in agriculture, that I have on the Ag Committee . . . is the lack of understanding among our urban friends of what we do in agriculture.”

 Together we can feed the Bees
House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson (D-MN) surrounded by wheat,
in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. Photo: Agri-Pulse.

Peterson warned that lack of understanding among the public and in Congress is growing since “every 10 years, we have a reapportionment so we have less people up in Washington who really understand what we do in agriculture and rural America.” He commended the wheat industry for bringing their “Urban Wheat Field” display to DC to provide a hands-on display of the facts of farming. With urban legislators and urban regulators setting rules for agriculture without understanding agriculture, Peterson said the good news is that “No matter what they throw at us, no matter how many crazy things the EPA comes up with, and all these other agencies, we deal with it. And we continue to provide the most abundant, the cheapest, safest food in the world.”

Peterson said one reason the recession hasn't been even worse is that agriculture has remained economically strong “due to our great farmers and those who are involved in agribusiness.” But he said agriculture's economic strength is also thanks to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees which “have been able to maintain a good solid farm policy that is the underpinning of what makes all of this work.”

Despite agriculture's continuing strong performance, Peterson said there are potential problems ahead. He told Agri-Pulse that strong congressional support for farm programs has been maintained by coupling farm programs with the food stamp program initially and now with conservation, renewable energy and organic agriculture. He says these linkages “build support in the urban community” and have “helped us to maintain a coalition to get the farm bill passed.”

Peterson is concerned that if Republicans win a significant number of seats in the November elections. “that would mean that there's a lot of tea party candidates who got elected. I think it's problematic for agriculture because you've already got in the Republican caucus probably 100 people who are against farm programs. So if you add 50 more to that, that would be a problem for farm bills and farm policy.”

For more about the Urban Wheat Field event hosted by the Wheat Foods Council, the National Association of Wheat Growers, U.S. Wheat Associates, and state and industry organizations , go to:

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