Farm Policy Is As Uncertain As It Has Been In Years

Politicians abruptly left Washington in September without a new farm bill and also left the direction of farm policy on an uncertain path.

Published on: Oct 23, 2012

Lawmakers quickly got out of town as they fled Washington in September to go home and politick for the big November Presidential Election and left future farm policy up in the air as Congress couldn't come together on a new farm bill.

So the 2008 Farm Bill expired Sept. 30, and future farm policy likely won't be determined until after Americans vote in November.

If President Obama is re-elected, farm policy might stay much the same as now—although nobody knows that—and with a now-expired farm bill, it is anyone's guess.

MAKE STATEMENT. Not everyone is a fan of the Renewable Fuels Standard and ethanol, as this sign with some gasoline pumps at a Texas gas station proclaimed this fall. The RFS and subsidized ethanol remain a red-hot farm policy issue, and could impact a tight November Presidential Election.
MAKE STATEMENT. Not everyone is a fan of the Renewable Fuels Standard and ethanol, as this sign with some gasoline pumps at a Texas gas station proclaimed this fall. The RFS and subsidized ethanol remain a red-hot farm policy issue, and could impact a tight November Presidential Election.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has given a glimpse of what his farm policy might be—but only in very broad terms—not agricultural specifics, if he is elected the next U.S. President.

Traveling during October in Iowa farm country, the Romney camp said his general, broad objectives will include things like lowering taxes. You could also expect fewer over-burdensome environmental regulations and interference with American business. Romney also promises lower energy prices.

All of those should play well not just with Americans, but farmers and ranchers as well.

State level
But some powerful Texas agricultural interests want many policy matters to remain at the state—and not the federal level.

The 135-year-old Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers, with its headquarters in Fort Worth, is one of them. TSCRA strongly favors private enterprise and far less bureaucracy and burdensome regulations.

During its annual fall meeting, TSCRA members voted on new policies. Water, not surprisingly, was big.

Among the new policies are a call to protect the current surface and groundwater rights, and exemptions for domestic and livestock use in state and/or local laws and regulations.

"Surface and ground water for domestic and livestock use must be protected as our state continues to grow and require more resources to support that growth," says Joe Parker Jr., a Byers, Texas rancher and TSCRA president. "For centuries, it's been the job of landowners to manage surface and groundwater, use it responsibly in order to produce food for our growing population, and present it for the next generation."

The TSCRA also reaffirmed its opposition to any federal, state, and/or international legislative or regulatory efforts to weaken U.S. citizens' right to keep and bear arms, and the group called for stronger border security efforts by the U.S. government along the Texas and Mexico border.

TSCRA also passed policies dealing with private property rights including stronger laws that better protect landowners from liability due to trespassing, and policy opposing efforts by counties and municipalities to gain more regulatory authority.

Policy also was passed supporting the protection of current state law of public ownership of native wildlife and landowners' rights to manage and hunt wildlife.

Renewable fuels
Clearly a red-hot item is renewable fuels. Corn growers and sorghum producers obviously love the Renewable Fuels Standard and its ethanol production mandates. But cattlemen, noting the skyrocketing costs of feeding cattle, do not. TSCRA passed policy opposing both federal and state subsidies and production mandates for renewable fuels that use feed grains and/or other feedstuffs used for human food and/or animal production.

TSCRA has about 50,000 members representing 15,000 cattle operations with 4 million cattle on about 76 million acres of range and pasture land primarily in Texas and Oklahoma.

Obviously, the renewable fuels industry feels just the opposite.

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association points to the importance of renewable fuels like ethanol not only for the country and energy independence, but the farm economy too.

IRFA President Brad Albin says more than 10,000 families are involved in Iowa's renewable fuels industry, which makes them important voters come November.

"Those 10,000 families, along with tens of thousands more involved in agriculture, will play a crucial role in the upcoming president election," Albin says. "IRFA will ensure voters have complete, accurate information about each candidate's plan for renewable fuels before they vote."

He says more information is available at here.