Farm Bill: Conflicting Perspectives Emerge from House GOP Leadership on Possible Way Forward
Ed O’Keefe reported yesterday at the Post Politics Blog (Washington Post) that, “Aides to House Republican leaders said Wednesday that they are still considering how to proceed with legislation establishing federal farm and food aid policy after news reports suggested that top leadership had settled on a strategy.”
Mr. O’Keefe indicated that, “During a stop in North Dakota on Wednesday, House Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.) said that he still expected the House to take up the food stamp portion of the legislation and that it ‘will reflect the reform agenda that we’ve been about in the nutrition program.’
“Local news reports said that Cantor said the House would pass the food stamp portion of the legislation in September and that House GOP leaders would then appoint members of a conference committee to negotiate a final version of the bill with the Senate.
“Asked for clarification, Cantor aides said the local news reports incorrectly characterized the leader’s plans.”
House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) was a guest yesterday on the Valley News Live (Fargo, N.D.) Point of View television program with Chris Berg. In part, the conversation focused on the Farm Bill.
Amy Dalrymple reported yesterday at The Grand Forks Herald (N.D.) Online that, “In the middle of a crew camp that houses North Dakota oil workers, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor got an earful about agriculture.
“Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, toured the Bakken on Wednesday to see North Dakota’s energy production firsthand, but he also talked one-on-one with Cando farmer Gene Nicholas about the state’s other leading industry.
“Nicholas, a retired state legislator, said he came away from the discussion with confidence that a farm bill ‘that we can live with’ will be passed this year.”
Ms. Dalrymple explained that, “Cantor’s visit was closed to the media except for a press conference in which Cantor took three questions.
“During the press conference, Cantor said Speaker of the House John Boehner will appoint members of a conference committee on the farm bill in September, after passing a bill dealing with food stamps.
“‘We in the House expect to move a nutrition title out of the House,’ Cantor said. ‘That title will reflect the reform agenda that we’ve been about in the nutrition program.’”
The article noted that, “Cantor, hosted by Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., met with energy industry and community leaders at a crew camp in Williston, toured a drilling site and other oilfield locations in the Bakken and met with North Dakota Petroleum Council members in Watford City.”
Rep. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.) was a guest Monday on the Valley News Live (Fargo, N.D.) Point of Viewtelevision program where in part, the conversation focused on the Farm Bill.
Rep. Cramer indicated that, “I think when we get back the first thing we’ll do is test the waters and see if the—there is an agreed upon nutrition bill right now. If, in fact, we have enough votes to pass that, we’ll bring it up and pass it. If not, we’ll bring it up probably the next week, either pass it or not pass it, because to me whether we pass it or don’t pass it, the Senate does have it in theirs. After that I think you’ll see us name conferees. The Speaker has said he will name conferees whether we pass the nutrition piece or don’t pass the nutrition piece.
“So do we get it done by September 30th? We’ll perhaps get the House piece done. The conferees will be named. Maybe it will go into October and even November before the whole thing is finished. But really, even though the current bill expires September 30th, it really doesn’t have any impact until January, so we have a little time to do it, but we have to get it done. We have got to get it done.”
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “North Dakota’s congressional delegation issued a joint news release on Monday to highlight tweaks to USDA’s rules for prevented-planting crop insurance in 2014.
“The two senators and one congressman stated, ‘The new rules come following pressure from North Dakota’s delegation to clarify the rules and make the program work for producers.’”
From the American Farm Bureau Federation (Aug. 26)- “Farmers and ranchers are putting heat on their members of Congress to get immigration reform finished when they return to Washington from their summer break.”
John Barry reported on Friday at The Bulletin (Norwich, Conn.) Online that, “Farming isn’t for the faint of heart, Marie Tyler told [House Ag Committee Member Joe Courtney (Conn.)] during a tour of her farm Friday…[T]he 2nd District Democratic congressman, along with several aides and agriculture officials, toured farms in North Grosvenordale and Hampton as well as the Tyler farm in Canterbury.”
The article noted that, “‘The Senate [farm] bill got through,’ Courtney told Tim Tyler. He said the bill the Senate passed had support from both Democrats and Republicans. ‘I’d vote for it in a heartbeat.’
“Courtney said the Republican-controlled House refused to pass the Senate bill, however.
“‘The House is a really tough place right now,’ he said. ‘They amended it — in my opinion, mangled it — and then wouldn’t vote for it.’”
From University of Illinois Extension (Aug. 25)- “Demand for soybeans inside and outside of the United States is strong. As Todd Gleason reports consumption of the oilseed should keep its price relatively high.”
A news release Wednesday from Senator Kay Hagan (D., N.C.) indicated that, “[Hagan] today visited J.P. Davenport & Son Farm in Greenville to talk about the importance of approving a Farm Bill. In June, Hagan helped pass a bipartisan Senate Farm Bill that contained major victories for North Carolina farmers. The Senate and House of Representatives must agree on a Farm Bill before the current law expires on September 30. Agriculture is North Carolina’s largest industry, generating $77 billion in economic activity and employing nearly one-fifth of the state’s workforce.
“‘Agriculture is North Carolina’s biggest industry, and one of the most pressing issues facing Congress right now is the looming deadline to pass a new Farm Bill,’ said Hagan. ‘Approving a 2013 Farm Bill would give farms like J.P. Davenport and Son the certainty needed to expand and create jobs, and access to new measures that help to recover after losses caused by events outside their control. Congress must put partisan politics aside and approve a 2013 Farm Bill to keep our agricultural economy humming.’”
The update stated that, “The Davenports rely on federal crop insurance to protect against losses caused by extreme weather and other events outside their control.
“‘Federal Crop Insurance has a direct positive impact on farmers, and I appreciate Senator Hagan’s leadership to strengthen the program in this year’s Farm Bill,’ said Lawrence Davenport, co-owner of J.P. Davenport & Son.”
House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) spoke yesterday with Ramey Cozart on KKBS radio (Guymon, Okla.) and was asked: “What’s the No. 1 thing affecting production agriculture right now?”
In response, Chairman Lucas provided a general overview of the economic and policy landscape by breaking down the outlook into short, medium and long-term perspectives.
“Well, in the short term it’s still weather issues, for the next few weeks and months. Is it going to continue to rain on the Corn Belt? Are we going to stay green for the rest of the fall? Will we be able to put a wheat crop in the ground?
“In the longer run, the real question is about the farm bill. We’re operating now in the sixth year of a five-year farm bill. Will I be able to go to conference in September? Can I work out the differences with the Senate and get a farm bill on the books? Because remember, while most farmers and ranchers know that the biggest part of the money in the farm bill is food stamps now, nonetheless the farm bill is the commodity title, it’s crop insurance, it’s the conservation programs, it’s CRP and rural development and farm credit, all those things.
“The farm bill is very important, especially if Mother Nature decides that the last few weeks of green is just temporary and we go back to drought conditions next year and the year after, or world markets take a hiccup, the Chinese stop buying imports, what that does to demand, or just a whole myriad of things. So putting the farm bill on the books is, in the intermediate, the next most important thing.”
Chairman Lucas explained that, “And if you just want to talk about a long ways down the road, the trade agreements that are going on, because right now the President’s proposed, and it’s a legitimate thing, proposed trying to negotiate with the European Union a trade agreement to open up imports and exports to a greater degree with the Europeans and with the Pacific Rim countries, they’re trying to negotiate that. That’s all the way from New Zealand around to Japan, for instance.
But the thing on trade agreements is it’s not just trade—is it fair? By that are the tariffs really the same for stuff going in and out of the country? Will the people we deal with in other countries standardize what they refer to as phytosanitary standards? Will they grade and deal with bug and pest and variety issues in a fair and equitable fashion? If trade is fair, these trade agreements, if they can be concluded, in the long run will open up more markets to us, but it’s got to be fair. Not just free, it’s got to be fair.
“So in the short run it’s the weather, intermediate it’s passing the farm bill, in the long run it’s still these trade deals with the rest of the world.”
As a side note, Katie Smith reported yesterday at Roll Call Online that Chairman Lucas was tied for fifth in a “top ten tally members of Congress with the most town halls scheduled this month.”
Ursula Zerilli reported yesterday at the Kalamazoo Gazette (Mich.) Online that, “Signs at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market showing that vendors accept government-assisted cash were on display as U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., visited the market on Tuesday.
“Stabenow has been traveling the state visiting farmers markets this week to tout the 2013 Farm Bill. After visiting Hop Head Farms on Tuesday morning, she met with local food access activists and toured the Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market.”
Ms. Zerilli noted that, “The passage of the farm bill isn’t being held up by farm issues; instead, lawmakers are grappling with how the bill changes federal food stamp programs.
“‘There’s a tremendous amount of politics going on in the House of Representatives right now,’ Stabenow said. ‘Their bill will play politics with food assistance and cut 6 million off of getting temporary help when they are out of work and would at the same time not help us get a farm bill done.’”
Yesterday’s article pointed out that, “Stabenow said she was confident the bill will be passed this year. Lawmakers have a Sept. 30 deadline to pass a bill, but Stabenow said she wouldn’t be surprised if that deadline was pushed back.
“‘It may slip into October, but we will get it done,’ Stabenow said. ‘We have many things in the bill that make it worth passing. We are making major changes to help farmers markets and conservation with major new effort to protect the Great Lakes. We added something called bio-base manufacturing to create jobs and help us stop using petroleum for plastics and let us use food by-products to help get us off of foreign oil. The bottom line is every community is benefited from rural development, so we need to get the farm bill done.’”
A news release yesterday from Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) stated that, “[Stabenow] today met with community leaders at Hunter Park GardenHouse in Lansing to discuss how the production and sale of more locally grown foods boosts the local economy. According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, if every household spent just $10 dollars per week on locally grown food it would generate nearly $40 million in economic activity in Michigan. Senator Stabenow heard from local leaders who are working on food initiatives in Lansing that will help boost economic growth, support Mid-Michigan agriculture, and increase access to more locally grown, healthy food choices for families.”
The release noted that, “In June, the Senate passed Chairwoman Stabenow’s 2013 Farm Bill with wide bipartisan support (66-27). The Farm Bill expands support for community gardens, farmers’ markets and local food hubs to boost Michigan agriculture, our state’s second largest industry. The bill also strengthens crop insurance and provides disaster relief for fruit and vegetable growers who were affected by last year’s freeze and drought. While strengthening key initiatives to help farmers and agriculture businesses create jobs, the Farm Bill also cuts unnecessary programs and streamlines existing ones to reduce the deficit by $24 billion.”
Steve Carmody reported yesterday at Michigan Radio Online that, “Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow is hopeful getting a deal on a new Farm Bill won’t be derailed by a looming deadline to avoid a federal government shutdown.
“The current Farm Bill’s mix of farm subsidies and low-income food programs expires at the end of September. The next day, unless a budget deal can be reached, the federal government may have to shut down.”
Mr. Carmody noted that, “‘Regardless of the broader discussion going on the budget, we can get this done,’ says Stabenow.
“The Michigan Democrat, who leads the Senate Agriculture committee, says it’s up to the House Republican leadership to get behind one plan.
“‘We can get this done regardless of the broader debate on the budget,’ says Stabenow, ‘But we have to have a willingness by House leadership….the Speaker (John Boehner)…Majority Leader (Eric Cantor) have to decide they just want to get this done.’”
Ron Hays, writing yesterday at the Oklahoma Farm Report Online, provided a recap of an interview he had with House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) on Saturday. An audio replay of the discussion is available here.
In part, Mr. Hays noted that, “Lucas says rural America is concentrating on the Commodity Title- Title One– with the Senate and the House offering different plans in the measures that have cleared each respective body. Lucas says he has spent time in the corn belt both last year and this year- and the prospects of a bumper crop here in 2013 might force especially the corn farmers who has strongly called for the shallow loss plan advanced in the Senate to rethink what will help their producers. Lucas told Hays that when you start talking corn- ‘Now we’re bouncing around in the four dollar range, depending on which weather forecast you get- I would say there’s a distinct possibility that shallow loss revenue might not work for them’ [related clip on this issue here (MP3- 2:03)].
“Also discussed was Crop Insurance and the attacks on the program, Heritage Action’s call for a one year extension of current farm policy to get a chance for major reforms and why Chairman Lucas is interested in permanent law being updated to become the 2013 measure instead of the 1949 act.
“During his comments made to the farm audience- Lucas pledged ‘we will get a farm bill done this year’ and strongly defended the idea of changing permanent law– saying it’s much easier to defend a position established rather than having to advance new legislation every four to five years.”
The “Washington Insider” section of DTN reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member on the House Ag Committee, spoke Aug. 13 at the Minnesota Ag Leadership Conference, leaving no doubt the fate of the new farm bill is murky.
“‘We’re not giving up on getting a new farm bill passed,’ Peterson said, but he added, ‘I’m not sure how we get this done’ due to food nutrition issues pushed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
“As for a coming House-Senate conference, Peterson said he told Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ‘there will be target prices’ in the Title I safety net program and ‘they will be based on planted acres not to exceed base acres.’ He noted that some commodity groups are ‘simply wrong’ to press base acres rather than planted acres for any target price payments. ‘We can’t sell that to Congress any more … about paying for acres not planted.’”