Will farmers 'bring the heat' to finish the farm bill?
By Sara Wyant
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
SEDALIA, MO., August 15, 2013 - With the current farm bill extension expiring on Sept. 30 and Congress seemingly unable to make any long-term policy decisions, many farmers and ranchers have given up hope that new comprehensive legislation important to their industries will be passed this year.
But Missouri farmers packed their state Farm Bureau building at the Missouri State Fair today to tell their elected representatives that further delays on the farm bill, immigration reform and the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) are not acceptable.
Amidst banners and hand-held fans that read “Bring the Heat,” the American Farm Bureau Federation and Missouri Farm Bureau, along with Republicans Sen. Roy Blunt and Rep. Vicky Hartzler teamed up at the event to make the case for final passage of a new farm bill and other critical legislation.
AFBF farm policy specialist Mary Kay Thatcher urged Congress to pass a five-year farm bill instead of another extension when they return to Washington, D.C., after Labor Day. She told the crowd to tell members of Congress to move quickly toward passage of the bill this fall. This is the first of several other grassroots efforts that AFBF is coordinating.
“Certainty, in terms of having a safety net in place when it is needed most is critical to agriculture,” noted Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst. “We know our delegation will continue to ‘bring the heat' to their colleagues to finish the farm bill.”
Indeed, both Blunt, who serves as the Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, and Hartzler, who serves on the House Committee on Agriculture, were supportive.
“Farmers and ranchers in Missouri are working hard every day to help feed the nation and the world," said Blunt, “I was glad to vote for the Senate-passed farm bill this year, and I'll continue fighting to ensure farmers and ranchers receive the economic certainty they need in order to succeed.”
Hartzler underlined the importance of providing certainty to farmers.
“After traveling across my district for three days touring operations and meeting with farmers, it is obvious that rural America needs the certainty of a five year farm bill that is fair to taxpayers and good for consumers,” Hartzler said.
But at the same time that Missouri farmers were rallying, several lawmakers told Agri-Pulse they hear more frequently from members of conservative and Tea Party groups who want them to oppose the farm bill until there are further reforms in the nutrition and commodity programs. When it comes to generating political“heat,” farmers will need to dramatically turn up the temperature, especially compared to some of the conservative groups who might be their natural allies on many other pieces of legislation.
Conservative groups are turning up their own campaigns on lawmakers who voted on a “farm only” farm bill last month, which did not include the significant commodity program reforms they wanted. In addition, they are expressing concerns about the outcome of a potential conference committee report between the House and Senate.
In a taped interview for C-SPAN that will air on Sunday, Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham was asked about his organizations' position on the farm bill, which could potentially go to a conference committee this fall.
According to a spokesperson, Heritage Action has serious concerns with the policies likely to emerge out of a conference report--especially if food stamps are reattached and if the permanent law provisions in the House bill are implemented.
Under that scenario, Needham said he would prefer a one-year extension to making bad policy permanent or locking bad policy into place for a five-year period.
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