Illinois' Rep. Schock talks farm bill, drought on the Mississippi

By Aarian Marshall

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2012 - Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., is confident that a farm bill will be part of larger fiscal cliff talks, the congressman indicated during a press call yesterday.

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“There's a good chance the farm bill will be included in the fiscal cliff discussions,” the congressman told reporters. The pronouncement comes days after Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, reportedly backed down on target prices. Roberts has long opposed creating target prices because of their tendencies to distort plantings and invoke international trading challenges from members of the World Trade Organization. Roberts' yielding means that lawmakers will have an easier time reconciling the Senate-passed farm bill and the House Agriculture Committee's version of the same legislation.

“The fact that (Roberts is) willing to accept the Democratic members of the Ag Committee's proposals on price supports suggests that Senate Democrats are willing to go along with something on the food program,” Schock pointed out. “I'm sure (Roberts is) getting something in exchange.”

Schock also reported optimism concerning the state of shipping on the Mississippi River. The Army Corps of Engineers announced last week that they would increase outflow from the Missouri River to feed into the larger waterway.

“If we limit the water coming out of the Missouri River, by January the barge traffic will not be able to continue along the Mississippi,” Schock said. He noted that falling Mississippi water levels don't just affect shipping companies - “80% of the jet fuel burned at O'Hare Airport is shipped on the Mississippi,” he said.

But the Corps' announcement is not without controversy - farmers along the Missouri depend upon the river for vital irrigation. Last week, lawmakers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Kansas penned a letter to President Obama asking the government to reconsider its decision about increasing Missouri outflow.

The decision “will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the people and many businesses in the states we represent, which are also suffering overwhelmingly from the effects of drought,” the lawmakers wrote. 

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