Farm Bill Issues
House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) was a guest on yesterday’s AgriTalk radio program with Mike Adams where the conversation focused on the Farm Bill.
Rep. Peterson indicated that, “[House Speaker] John Boehner [R., Ohio] has wanted to do [the Farm Bill] in lame duck all along. I had discussions with him this summer, and he said, well, we’re going to handle it in the lame duck. So hopefully we will have an ally in the speaker in bringing this up in the lame duck session, and that should be helpful.
“But one of the things I’m concerned about is there is no real work going on. We’re just kind of waiting right now. And I’m a little bit worried about having enough time during the lame duck to get this done. We’re going to have to move this early, as soon as we get back, on the House floor in order to get it into conference and get it worked out and get it back on the floor before we adjourn for Christmas.”
Ranking Member Peterson added that, “[Speaker Boehner] wants to do a bill. He’s never been for an extension, I don’t think. He’s not been the problem. The problem has been [House Majority Leader Eric] Cantor [R., Va.] and his allies. There’s a hundred and some of them that probably have ten different reasons why they’re against this. Some of them think we haven’t made enough reform in the commodity title. Some of them don’t like the sugar program, some of them don’t like the dairy program, some of them it’s food stamps. They want to cut more out of food stamps. So they’re all over the map.
“And there’s a fair number of them, a hundred, a hundred and some Republicans. And that’s been the problem. They haven’t wanted to bring this up when they’re divided within their caucus. But this 90 day extension that was tried, that was a bunch of nonsense, because there was nothing that was going to happen in 90 days. The first problem was 91 days. So if they were going to do an extension at that point, they should have done a longer one.”
The Minnesota Democrat indicated that, “But I think an extension is a bad idea. We get into next year, we’re not sure the Senate can pass another bill. We’re going to have a lower baseline. It’s not going to be any easier next year, so I’m not for an extension of any kind, of any length. I am for getting this bill done, and I am okay with permanent law going in on January 1st if we don’t get it done, and I will oppose an extension if we don’t get it done. And we’ll see what happens.
“They whipped this extension, and I got pretty upset because they never whipped the bill. So last week I put together a whip team of about 25 members, half Republicans, half Democrats, and we went out Wednesday night and Thursday and whipped this. And I have 100 votes on my side, which Cantor was saying we only had 20, so he’s way off. And the Republicans think they have 125, 130 votes on their side, so we have enough votes to pass this bill the way it came out of committee.
“And they just need to put it on the floor. And hopefully they will. I hope that Boehner follows through on what he told me this summer, that he wanted to do it lame duck. But we got all these tax cuts expiring and sequestration and all this other stuff that’s going to distract people, too, so it’s not a sure thing, but we’re hopeful we can get this thing done.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Sanford Bishop (D., Ga.) commented on the stalled Farm Bill this week on a local television station (video replay) and noted that, “Without some sense of certainty, it throws everything into a big question mark and of course that means farmers are limited in their ability to get credit because the lenders are limited in their ability to predict the capacity of the farmers to repay their loans.”
Adam D. Young reported earlier this week at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Online that, “U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Lubbock) praised Lubbock area farmers for their work through lingering drought, but is disappointed Congress hadn’t worked for them by passing a farm bill, he said Monday during a Slaton Chamber of Commerce event…[N]eugebauer said the fiscal years 2013-22 farm bill is held up in Congress as its members are stuck on largely non-farming related issues, including food stamps and other government assistance in the package totaling nearly $1 trillion.”
The article added that, “Neugebauer called for Congress to tighten its belt and advocated redefining who qualifies for food stamps based on need, which he said could save upward of $10 billion.
“‘You can only spend the amount of money that you have,’ he said.”
At his Congressional webpage yesterday, Rep. Neugebauer noted that, “When Congress returns in November, I’ll continue to push for a long-term Farm Bill to give our producers the certainty they need.”
Meghan Grebner reported yesterday at Brownfield that, “But [House Ag Committee Member Marlin Stutzman (R., Ind.)] thinks completing the [Farm Bill] legislation actually could depend on the outcome of the November elections. ‘If everything stays ‘as is’ with the Republicans controlling the House and the Democrats controlling the Senate and president Obama being reelected – I think you’ll probably see a five-year bill possibly move,’ he says. ‘But, if the Senate would change majority to Republican and the House stayed Republican – I think you’ll see us start over.’”
Yesterday on the House Floor, during pro forma session, Representative Donna Edwards (D., Md.) made a request to call Congress back into session to take up legislation Democrats wanted debated and passed, including the Farm Bill. The Speaker Pro Tempore, Steven C. LaTourette (R., Ohio) ruled that Representative Edwards had not put forth a proper parliamentary inquiry. Related video and a related article on this House floor request from yesterday are available here.
Also yesterday, a news release from Senate Ag Committee Member Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) indicated that, “[Sen. Bennet] released the following statement on the decision by House leadership to adjourn until the election without passing the 2012 Farm Bill, which would provide much-needed assistance to farmers and ranchers nationwide experiencing severe drought conditions. The Senate passed its bill in June with broad, bipartisan support. The current Farm Bill expires at the end of this month.
“‘Colorado farmers, ranchers, and rural communities deserve far better than having the Farm Bill languish in Congress,’ Bennet said. ‘Producers in my state and all across the country have suffered through one of the worst droughts in decades, while Congress has failed to pass this bipartisan bill that would offer immediate assistance. The House of Representatives has both the Senate bill and its own bill which passed out of committee, yet the full House adjourned without bringing either up for a vote. I urge the House to schedule a vote on the Farm Bill as soon as it returns to Washington.’”
Julie Sherwood reported yesterday at the Messenger Post (Canandaigua, N.Y.) Online that, “Dairy farmers are among those who stand to lose big with no extension of the federal Farm Bill. The every-five-year agriculture policy bill, set to expire Sept. 30, funds subsidies for farmers including the Milk Income Loss Program, which compensates farmers for a portion of their loss when prices fall below a certain amount.”
The article pointed out that, “Last week, the political fight over the Farm Bill played heavily in the 29th Congressional District, where U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, faces a challenge from Ithaca Democrat Nate Shinagawa.
“Press releases flew back and forth, with Shinagawa charging Reed flip-flopped on the issue because Reed suggested a short-term extension of the bill might be a temporary solution.” (Rep. Reed and Nate Shinagawa are running against each other for the 23rd District seat in New York, which The New York Times says is leaning GOP.)
In other election related news on the Farm Bill, the AP reported yesterday that, “Democrats launched two ads in North Dakota on Tuesday criticizing Republican Senate candidate Rick Berg over the stalled farm bill as the party seeks to capitalize on rural voters’ frustration with congressional inaction.”
David Montgomery reported this week at the Argus Leader (S.D.) Online that, “Rep. Kristi Noem and her Democratic challenger Matt Varilek discussed the budget, the farm bill and tribal issues during an hour-long Argus Leader forum Monday morning.
The article noted that, “‘Anyone who says I’m not working hard to pass the farm bill is just playing political games,’ Noem said, at a different point in the debate. ‘I’ve done everything I possibly can to get that farm bill accomplished.’”
For a detailed look at some of the political impacts of the Farm Bill issue in some House and Senate races, see this FarmPolicy.com post that is updated regularly, “Snapshot: An Election Year Farm Bill- Campaign Impacts.”
Beyond the legislative branch, Christopher Doering reported yesterday at USA Today Online that, “Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday House Republican leaders had the support to pass a farm bill but they decided to delay a vote until after the November election when they could make even deeper cuts to agricultural programs.
“Vilsack, who made no effort to hide his displeasure with the failure of House GOP leaders to act on a new $500 billion farm bill, said in an interview that instead of deciding to act on the law separately lawmakers will now include it in part of a broader discussion in Congress and the White House over how to cut spending and deal with the country’s burgeoning, $16 trillion debt. Absent action from Congress, automatic spending cuts and higher tax rates kick in in January.
“As a result, Vilsack said the agriculture sector could be hit with more than its fair share of spending cuts at the expense of other government departments when those decisions are made after the Nov. 6 election.”
The article noted that, “Kevin Smith, a Boehner spokesman, downplayed the comments from Vilsack on the reason for the delay or that agriculture will be hit with a large proportion of spending cuts later on.”
Sec. Vilsack spoke yesterday with the Red River Farm Network’s Mike Hergert on the Agriculture Today radio program. Sec. Vilsack made similar remarks as those noted in the USA Today article with respect to lack of House Farm Bill action. To listen to Sec. Vilsack’s remarks yesterday on Agriculture Today, click here (MP3- 1:11).
And Dar Danielson reported yesterday at Radio Iowa Online that, “‘My deep concern right now is not so much that happening, it’s that there is immediate impact on some producers, there’s uncertainty for all producers, and there’s the likelihood that this gets discussed in the context of far deeper cuts than what the Senate approve and what the House Ag Committee approved,’ Vilsack says.
“‘And that’s my concern, I think there’s a plan here for deeper cuts, and that’s unfortunate, because rural America should not have to do more than its fair share towards deficit reduction.’”
In addition, Bloomberg writer Alan Bjerga reported yesterday that, “The U.S. should focus on improving how land resources are used to meet increased demand for food and biofuels should President Barack Obama win a second term, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
“Global demand for food, combined with a desire to increase trade and expand production of alternative fuels, means U.S. agriculture needs to find additional uses for a greater range of crops, Vilsack said in an interview for Bloomberg Television’s ‘Conversations with Judy Woodruff.’ The program was taped today and will run later this week.”
In news covering nutrition issues, Jim McLaughlin reported last week at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online that, “Following new federal guidelines, school districts nationwide have retooled their menus to meet new requirements to serve more whole grains, only low-fat or nonfat milk, daily helpings of both fruits and vegetables, and fewer sugary and salty items. And for the first time, federal funds for school lunches mandate age-aligned calorie maximums. The adjustments are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 touted by Michelle Obama and use the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“[O]n Monday, 70% of the 830 Mukwonago High students who normally buy lunch boycotted cafeteria food to protest what they see as an unfair ‘one size fits all thing.’ Middle schoolers in the district also boycotted their school lunches, with counts down nearly half Monday. They’re not alone in their frustration; schools across the country are reporting students who are unhappy with the lunch offerings.”
Meanwhile, Elise Viebeck reported yesterday at The Hill’s Energy Blog that, “Spiking rates of childhood obesity are a threat to national security and demand government intervention, according to retired military leaders.
“In a report entitled ‘Still Too Fat to Fight’ that was released Tuesday, the advocacy group ‘Mission: Readiness’ described obesity as an epidemic that poses a direct challenge to military effectiveness.”
Richard Mertens reported yesterday at The Christian Science Monitor Online that, “Across the Corn Belt, farmers have expressed surprise that their corn endured drought as well as it did – much better, they say, than the varieties they planted just a decade or two ago. In Illinois, for example, one estimate suggests that corn farmers will lose one-quarter less of their crop than they did during the 1988 drought – in large part because of the seeds they planted.
“Farmers are benefiting from decades of research in plant breeding combined with a growing interest in crops that can better tolerate drought and other stress. Indeed, research has shown that vulnerability to drought is one of the chief limits to crop production around the world. Meanwhile, gene mapping and other innovations have enabled scientists to develop new varieties with much greater speed and precision than before.”
Michael Haddon and Ian Berry reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Russia’s consumer-rights watchdog said Tuesday it has suspended the import and use of a genetically engineered corn made by Monsanto Co. following a study’s findings that suggested the crop might cause cancer.”
And Bloomberg writer Elizabeth Campbell reported yesterday that, “U.S. hog farmers are slaughtering animals at the fastest pace since 2009 as a surge in feed costs spurs the biggest losses in 14 years, signaling smaller herds next year and a rebound in pork prices.”
The article noted that, “Crop damage from the worst U.S. drought since 1956 sent corn-feed prices surging to a record last month and may mean losses of about $44 a head for hog farmers in the fourth quarter, the most since 1998, Purdue University estimates. Two producers in Canada filed bankruptcy petitions this month. While the acceleration in slaughtering is boosting supply now, buyers including CKE Inc., the owner of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast- food chains, expect higher prices in 2013 as herds shrink and U.S. exports rise.”