Pass the Farm Bill PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Amanda Bowman   
Tuesday, 07 August 2012 11:25

by Bruce Braley

Two weeks ago, I visited with two farmers from Palo, Iowa, Gary and Vicki Owens, to see their farm and the drought conditions affecting their crops and crops across Iowa. I saw the dry ground and struggling corn and soybeans that the family is hoping will be able to survive the relentless heat and dry weather. Gary and Vicki told me how concerned they are that the lack of rain in July will doom their harvest this fall.  Despite the difficult summer, the Owens remain hopeful that wetter and cooler weather will grace their fields soon.

The drought is bad enough.  But adding to the uncertainty is a hardening political stalemate in Congress over the 2012 Farm Bill.  The current Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30th – along with modern crop insurance programs, disaster relief, conservation programs, nutrition programs and more -- unless a new bill is signed into law.  Some disaster assistance programs have already expired, adding insult to injury for many agricultural producers just in time for the drought.

And the hits keep coming.  The House Agriculture Committee passed the Farm Bill more than three weeks ago in a bipartisan vote – a critical test of support for the bill – but leaders have continued to block the full House from voting on the bill.  Then, this week, House leaders pulled a one-year Farm Bill extension, preventing a vote on that.  In a final coup de grace, despite members voting against adjournment, leaders sent Congress home for a month-long recess on Thursday, leaving the Farm Bill unresolved and the clock running out before its September 30th expiration date.

Here’s what I can’t figure out.  What exactly is Congress taking a vacation from?  Any Iowan who’s worked a day in their life knows that to get time off, you actually have to put time in.  Congress certainly hasn’t done much of anything this year.  Farmers don’t get a vacation from the drought, and Congress shouldn’t get one either.

Political gridlock over the Farm Bill strikes me as incredibly childish.  There are real folks back home hurting, but Congress can’t get beyond petty feuds and personal differences.

Congress needs to grow up, act like adults, and get the job done on the Farm Bill.

There are members of both political parties out there who agree that producers need the financial stability and protections provided in the Farm Bill.  Farm families and agricultural producers in Iowa certainly agree.

Maybe I’m an optimist, but I think that if allowed to cast a vote on the Farm Bill, a majority of the House would support it.  It’s the political games of leaders looking to score the most insignificant of political points against their opponents that is standing in the way.

So, I’ve launched an effort that could short-circuit the political games.  If a simple majority of representatives sign on to a petition I’m circulating, the Farm Bill must immediately come up for a vote before the House.  And I’ve been encouraged by the early positive response – I’m working with two Republicans (Rick Berg of North Dakota and Chris Gibson of New York) and a Democrat (Peter Welch of Vermont) to recruit signers.

It’s a drastic step and maybe a long shot , but we need to do everything we possibly can to help Iowa farmers through the worsening drought.  And the best way to help right now is to give farmers the certainty that the Farm Bill will bring.

The Farm Bill deserves a vote, not the obstruction that’s become all too typical of Washington. Folks like Gary and Vicki Owens are depending on it.

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