What is in this article?:
- Farm program passage not the end of the struggle
- Continued conflict
The battle for a farm safety net is not over, says retired U.S. Congressman and former Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest.
The Agriculture Act of 2014 “is in place,” following several years of struggle, numerous versions, several setbacks and an often rancorous atmosphere in Congress that defied compromise.
But the battle is not over, says retired U.S. Congressman and former Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest.
Combest, now with Combest, Sell and Associates, speaking at the recent Texas Ag Forum in Austin, said despite the hard-won victory of passing a farm program with an adequate safety net, challenges remain to keep it intact.
“We will have to fight to keep the bill every year,” Combest said. “The Environmental Working Group, now that they have gotten rid of direct payments, will target crop insurance. Appropriations bills will be fought,” he added. “We also face over-regulation, which may be the most critical factor.”
He encouraged farmers and their association representatives to “take a breather, but stay involved.”
Combest, a Republican, noted that opposition to the bill and continued calls for further cuts, will come from all sides. “I have been extremely frustrated with the way people make decisions in Washington,” he said.
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“I have been frustrated with some of my former colleagues. It really upset me, the tactics used by far right wing groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth.”
He said the bill offered $24 billion in savings “and they wouldn’t vote for it.” He said Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R- Okla.) took some heat from right-wing legislators. “And young legislators were looking over their shoulders at the possibility of Tea Party challengers. It’s time to grow up. So many were close-minded.”
Combest said he and others took every argument legislators could muster to oppose the bill and “tore apart every argument they had not to vote for it. And they still voted against it. It’s a battle we will have to keep fighting.”
He said the political dynamics that surrounded debate on this farm bill were difficult. The process began as early as 2010 with hearings across the country. Budget concerns and failures resulted in formation of a “super committee” formed to develop a compromise budget that had eluded House and Senate Republicans and Democrats for months.
Each committee was charged with submitting a bill that would cut the budget, Combest said. “The only committee to come up with a reduction plan was agriculture. They came up with a basic plan that would have saved money. The policies were not perfect but given the conditions and timing were reasonable across all areas of agriculture and would have been workable.” The super committee failed and the ag proposal was scrapped.