GILFILLAN ESTATES - Members of Tuesday's Farmfest panel on the U.S. Farm Bill called on their audience to create pressure on their representatives in Congress to pass the bill.
The panel consisted of U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, National Farm Union President Roger Johnson, American Farm Bureau Public Policy Director Dale Moore and American Soybean Association Vice President Bob Worth.
Each panelist voiced frustration that a new farm bill has not been passed despite all the work on it. They took turns criticizing Republican leadership for not advancing the current, controversial version of the bill in the House to conference committee before recessing until September.
Staff photo by Josh Moniz
First District Congressman Tim Walz stands while speaking at a forum Tuesday morning at Farmfest. He was joined by Congressman Collin Peterson, far left, and Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union and Dale Moore, policy director of the American Farm Bureau.
Expect for Walz, the panel members gave gloomy predictions on the chances of passing a new bill. Details on the legislative items lost or endangered if this happened ranged from losing disaster insurance on livestock to losing conservation protections to farmers simply losing certainty in how rules will impact their operations.
The current situation over the farm bill came out of a split version of the bill only containing agriculture legislation being passed in July after the House shot down the passage of bipartisan version of the bill. The move successfully garnered enough hardline Republican support to pass that portion through the House, but it faces the impossibility of getting through the U.S. Senate after it passed a full version of the bill. Additionally, the Republican are currently proposing passing a version of the food assistance side that cuts a massive $40 billion from the programs, more than double the compromise bill's cuts.
Walz and Peterson, who are on the Agriculture Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, said they feel the majority of lawmakers, including Republican House Speaker John Boehner, worked hard to pass the compromise version and were frustrated with it being defeated.
Peterson explicitly blamed the delay and splitting of the bill on Rep. Eric Cantor seeking to turn the bill into partisan politics. He said the bill would have been passed already without the interference.
Walz said he is willing to go to extreme lengths in compromising to get the farm bill passed to meet the needs of farmers. However, he rejects lawmakers that try to cast food stamp recipients in a negative light when the majority of recipients are children and the elderly. He said the severity of the partisanship on both sides makes it incredibly difficult to see any path forward in passing the bill.
Walz said the key to creating progress with the bill is for all the people attending Farmfest and all those following the situation to barrage their representatives with phone calls and letters over their concerns about getting the bill passed.
Walz said the show of force by voters would create incredible pressure on lawmakers to make Congress pass something this year. He said this would ultimately lead to pressure for compromise, since lawmakers would feel the heat and see the need to pass a new farm bill.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)