Former longtime U.S. Congressman Charles W. Stenholm told the annual meeting of the Rolling Plains Cotton Growers that "Congress is broken." As keynote speaker for the RPCG meeting in conjunction with the 2013 Texas Farm, Ranch & Wildlife Expo in Abilene, he said not to expect a new farm bill soon.
He said after the House and Senate get a new budget completed by April 15—then with a budget in hand—the House and Senate Agriculture Committees could begin work in crafting a farm bill.
Currently, farm programs are operating on a 9-month extension of the 2008 farm bill with the extension running through Sept. 30.
Stenholm says organizations such as RPCG need to put maximum effort toward good crop insurance in any new farm bill to protect against drought and other acts of Mother Nature. It will be important to see waste, fraud, and abuse is eliminated in any insurance program, he noted. Stenholm said producers can expect that direct payments will no longer exist in any new farm law. A new farm act won't come easy.
"Congress is split 50-50," Stenholm said.
The native of Ericksdahl, Texas served 26 years in the U.S. Congress, including his role as Ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee his last 8 years in the House. With his southern "Boll Weevils" in Congress, Stenholm became recognized for his bipartisanship. A major example was Democrat Stenholm working with then-U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest, a Lubbock, Texas Republican, to produce the 2000 Crop Insurance Bill and a popular 2002 Farm Bill.
Stenholm told the RPCG meeting he has no apologies for his legacy being one of bipartisanship among Democrats and Republicans. He said if some legislation was good for agriculture or the country, he didn't care whether the sponsor had a "D" or an "R" by his or her name.
"Compromise has never been a 'bad word' until recently," Stenholm said. "Our (U.S.) Constitution would not have been written without compromise."