Ag leaders want more pressure from constituents for a farm bill

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, September 12, 2012- Without more pressure from constituents, a new five-year farm bill will not make it to the House floor this year, said House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., at a rally near the Capitol reflecting pool today.

An estimated 500 people and several Congress members attended the “Farm Bill Now!” rally, emceed by National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson and American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. More than 80 commodity, rural and consumer groups support the “Farm Bill Now!” mission to get Congress to pass a new, comprehensive, five-year farm bill before current farm programs expire at the end of September. Johnson said that while these groups have different ideas of what should go into a bill, “we are all united about one thing: we need a farm bill now.”

 

The Senate and the House Agriculture Committee each passed five-year legislation, but House leadership will not bring a farm bill to the floor for a vote. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, a former Agriculture Committee member, was the focus of rally pressure to bring up a farm bill before the November elections. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who did not attend the rally today, said earlier this week in Austin, Texas that House leadership understands the consequences for rural America and wants a vote on the bill.

House Agriculture Committee spokesperson Tamara Hinton told Agri-Pulse today that although Lucas did not attend the rally, he “appreciates the efforts of all groups and individuals who are trying to move along the farm bill process and highlight how important a bill is for our producers and rural constituents.”

 

Peterson said in an interview with Agri-Pulse earlier this week that “the problem is that you have half the Republican caucus that doesn't like this bill for different reasons,” making it difficult to have overall compromise.

“There's no good reason they didn't bring the bill to the floor,” Peterson said today, noting that he disagrees with House leadership that there will not be enough votes to pass a five-year farm bill. “I think we do have the votes.”

 
 
 

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-N.D., a House Agriculture Committee freshman, spoke at the rally as well. “I've heard a lot of excuses. I'm tired of it. Let's get the work done and get a farm bill, now,” she said in her remarks. 

Before the August recess, the House passed a livestock disaster aid bill. However, the Senate seems unlikely to pick it up. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., called the House disaster bill “wholly inadequate,” emphasizing the need to pass long-term legislation that includes livestock and other disaster aid. 

Earlier this week, Peterson predicted Congress would leave next Friday without a farm bill, disaster bill or extension. “At this point I don't see how to do it. We are just beyond where we should be.”

However, he told the frustrated farmers and commodity representatives on the Hill today he tended to be “too blunt” and that nothing will happen “only if nothing changes.”

“This rally is a good starting point, but we need 100 to 200 calls from people in these districts to these members,” he said. “We have eight days left, but we only need two days to pass this bill. They need to get the pressure put on.”

During today's rally, Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kans. criticized the House, noting “if you have objections with this farm bill, bring it to the floor,” Moran said. “Solve the problem. Don't sit on the sidelines waiting for something to happen.”

Stabenow also fired up the attendees today when she discussed the bill her committee designed and passed through the Senate. She noted that the Senate bill paid for disaster assistance and “gave our farmers long-term certainty by a five-year farm bill.”

She also dislikes the idea of a one-year extension of current farm policy, which “would be a disaster waiting to happen for dairy.”

“Farm country is overwhelmingly saying: just get the job done,” she said. “The House should take the precious few days they have in session and act.”

 
 

 

Congress members who spoke at the event include: Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D.

 

 

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