Failure to Pass Farm Bill a Disappointment

Kansas Viewpoint

House passed "Stop the War on Coal' but couldn't get around to the real business: a Farm Bill

Published on: September 21, 2012

I got an Email today from 1st District Rep. Tim Huelskamp letting me know that that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to “Stop the War on Coal” on Friday before recessing until after the election in November.

As far as I know, there is no looming deadline for stopping the war on coal. In fact, if part of the legislation is, as Huelskamp’s email indicated, prohibiting coal ash from being declared a hazardous waste material, it can probably wait a long, long time. Coal ash, which contains every toxin filtered out by the bag house of a power plant, IS a hazardous waste material and has been handled as such for decades.

It’s a very useful hazardous waste material, and properly handled -- as it already is -- in roadbeds and foundations, extremely valuable.

Let’s get real. Everybody on the farm is familiar with hazardous materials. Haven’t construction workers and farmers known for years that some of the products they use are dangerous if not properly handled? Good grief, what’s next, a demand from Congress to prohibit ammonium nitrate from being labeled explosive? Or a demand to take all the handling labels off pesticides?

But that is beside the point.

he point is there IS a looming deadline on important farm legislation. On Sept. 30, the Farm Bill expires. And Huelskamp and his colleagues went home without even a passing reference to the piece of legislation that is essential to providing a framework of decision making for every farmer in America.

Farm groups from across America were in Washington last week, standing shoulder to shoulder with folks they seldom agree with, all sounding a united voice for passing a Farm Bill. The Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union and National Grange stood hand in hand on stage, in total agreement that we need this bill passed. The northern states, southern states, eastern states, western states – the commodity growers, the specialty crops, the dairy industry and the beef industry – all stood hand in hand to ask for one thing: Pass a Farm Bill.

Their plea fell on deaf ears. The big battle is over budget cuts and what should bear the brunt – programs that benefit farmers or programs that provide food to school kids, senior citizens and poor people. Nobody pointed out that if farmers disappear, there isn’t any food to fight over at any price, let alone food to give away. Nobody mentioned that the Senate had already carved a path through the thorny thicket and really, folks, all you have to do is walk behind your leaders.

That also is beside the point.

My point is that we elect Congressmen to do a JOB, not to uphold a political position. You get a salary because you are supposed to be WORKING. I know the climate is tough and there’s a lot of pressure from a lot of directions. That’s why you get paid so well and have such generous benefits. At the end of the day, doing your job is the minimum expected of you.  And, sorry Congress, you fail.

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  1. John Knox Jr says:

    What are the salient points of the proposed Farm Bill and how to they relate to the CCC Loan? It is very unlikely that any new bill will pass until after the elections. Some farmers like the old bill and wish it would stay in place although this is not going to happen. John Knox Madison AL 35758. knoxj@knology.net

    • PJ Griekspoor of farmprogress.com says:

      The Farm Bill as passed by the Senate ends direct payments and relies largely on crop insurance as the safety net vehicle. Rice and peanut farmers are not happy with it because their business model does not yet have effective crop insurance offerings. Cotton is mixed. Farmers in Kansas use crop insurance; some of the traditional areas are more reliant on government support. The Senate bill cuts the nutrition title; the House bill slices it to the bone. The Senate bill reduces conservation programs; the House bill makes much bigger cuts. The Senate bill addresses the shortfalls in the Dairy program and re-establishes disaster aid for livestock producers for another five years. The House batted around a separate disaster bill but funded it by cuts in conservation programs that, ironically, most livestock producers rely on. The old bill can't stay in place. You either pass a new one or go back to what was in place in 1937 or 1949 depending on the program.