Farm Press Blog

Farm bill coalition faces uphill battle as Congress focuses on debt reduction

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•A large number of farm organizations have banded together to seek passage of the new farm bill this year.

•Many members of the majority in the House are fundamentally opposed to government spending.

•That's why the coalition faces a difficult task in getting new farm bill programs passed in this fiscal year or the next, depending on the outcome of the Nov. 6 election.

In years past, when the American Farm Bureau Federation or the National Corn Growers Association or the National Cotton Council spoke, most members of Congress listened. Most members and especially those in farm states knew those organizations spoke for the farmers in their districts and that if they wanted the farm vote they had better pay heed to what their representatives said.

Last week, those three joined with 36 other mainline farm organizations to ask Congress to pass a new farm bill rather than wait until after the election or after a new Congress is seated in January. The Farm Bill Now coalition represents the recognition of a new reality in Congress: The House is now dominated by members who have lost sight of the true mission of government in their zeal to accomplish one mission -- deficit reduction.

It doesn't seem to matter that the deficit numbers being thrown around ($16 trillion is the one cited most often) bear no relationship to reality or that too drastic a reduction will push the economy back into a recession or worse. These members are convinced that the deficit is evil incarnate and must be vanquished no matter what the cost. The fact that it took 12 years and trying to fight two questionable wars to reach this point is beside the point.

So it doesn't matter that your crops have burned up this year or that you've run out of pasture or hay to feed your livestock or that the Corps of Engineers hasn't had sufficient funding to properly maintain the channel in the Mississippi River and keep barges carrying your grain moving on the River. (One of the ironies of the current situation is that shippers have ample supplies of southern corn to help make up the deficit from drought in the Midwest but no water to move the grain north.)

House leaders keep saying they don't have time to schedule a vote on the farm bill. Democrats in the House say they've had time to vote on everything but the farm bill. What farmers need are members of Congress to decide they want to invest in the country and not tear down farm programs and all the other safety nets that have been put together over the last 80 years. 

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

Terry Nuhn (not verified)
on Sep 3, 2012

I'm not sure how the deficit bears no relationship to reality. The plight of Greece and other European countries that can't afford to pay the interest on their debts seem to be reality to me. Actually, 16 trillion is the national debt. The yearly deficits under this administration have been around one trillion. They dramatically increased spending in several departments, with one getting double it's usual appropriation. Unfortunately, the Department of Agriculture didn't see an increase. I suppose politicians trying to get re-elected are motivated to downplay the deficit.

Nevertheless, it's true that Congress has lost touch with agriculture. With so few representing farm districts, they don't understand the issues surrounding our food supply. Both the far left and the far right share the blame. The left wants to rid the nation of large farms. I don't know how they expect us to feed ourselves when over 70% of our food comes from large farms. Don't forget that Obama's proposed budgets have attempted to undermine the farm safety net. The far right seems determined to resurrect some sort of 19th century form of the Federal government, without regard to the 21st century challenges of national security and world trade. They think the safety net is cronyism. I applaud the effort of farm groups to pressure Congress to pass the farm bill. But they need to do more. They need to reach out to the American people and tell them of the importance of Agriculture. We need to elect members of Congress who support agriculture. It's a national security issue.

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