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Public Statements

Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Today is the last session before the August recess, and once again the House will adjourn without finishing its work. It's no wonder nobody likes Congress anymore. Members will now have to explain to their constituents why the House did not even try to consider a new 5-year farm bill. Frankly, we're in this position because the House leadership has refused to bring the 5-year farm bill to the floor.

Working in a bipartisan tradition on the Agriculture Committee, Chairman Lucas and I have crafted a new 5-year farm bill making many important and needed reforms. I appreciate the efforts of the chairman in trying to enact a long-term policy, and I know that if he had his way, as he just said, we would have already passed a farm bill. The chairman and I were ready to mark up our bill at the end of June, but the Republican leadership stepped in and said that they wanted us to consider the ag approps bill. So we held off for a couple of weeks, and then they didn't even bring the ag approps bill to the floor. The committee completed their work then on July 11, passing a new bill, a 5-year bill, 35-11 in a bipartisan vote. But rather than bring this bill to the floor, the House instead focused on messaging bills that are going nowhere.

I understand that this is an election year and the majority wants to promote their message, and I've even voted for some of these bills. You would think that after delaying us for 2 weeks, the leadership could have found 2 days on the House calendar to consider the committee's farm bill before the August recess.

Instead of bringing up the 5-year farm bill, the Republican leadership last week put forth a 1-year farm bill extension hoping to delay action until the next Congress, with hopes, for some people, that they're going to dismantle the farm and food safety nets. Fortunately, under intense opposition from those in agriculture and others, the leadership had to pull the bill. This brings us to today's consideration of H.R. 6233. This measure will provide some assistance to a few livestock producers affected by drought conditions across the country. Providing assistance to livestock producers, primarily cattle and sheep, is necessary and important, but this is not a comprehensive disaster package. Dairy and specialty crop producers are going to be left hurting, and there's no assistance for pork and poultry producers.

The Ag Committee's farm bill not only includes the livestock provision we're considering today, it also strengthens the farm safety net on a wide-ranging list of commodities. The 5-year farm bill will do a better job of providing certainty for American agriculture and assistance during this period of drought.

Additionally, I have concerns about the conservation cuts that are used to pay for this assistance. I don't think cutting conservation programs to offset the cost of disaster is the right approach. If there was more time, maybe we could find a better way to do this. But in the rush of putting this bill together, it didn't give us the necessary time to explore all of the options. This is yet another reason that I think bringing up a 5-year bill makes more sense.

It's just mystifying to me why House leaders can't take ``yes'' for an answer. I don't know how many times I've heard from the other side complaints about the Senate not being able to get our bills passed. We passed a lot of bills, most of which I supported, that are over in the Senate and they never took them up. Now the Senate has passed a bill, and this may be the only time that we will ever be able to get a farm bill through the Senate. They passed it on a bipartisan basis. We passed it on a bipartisan basis. Now the leadership doesn't want to bring it up. I don't understand it.

The farm economy is the one part of the economy that is actually working, doing well, has been solid for the last few years. This is due in part, I believe, to the strong farm bill that we passed in '08. Weathering a natural disaster without the certainty of a 5-year bill could jeopardize one of the bright spots we have in this economy.

With all that said, I do recognize the effects the drought is having on our farmers, and I will vote in favor of H.R. 6233. However, this bill is a sad substitute for what is really needed--a long-term farm policy. So I'll continue to urge my colleagues to bring up the House agriculture 5-year farm bill and to ensure that all producers will have necessary assistance during these times of disaster.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, I'm going to support this bill. It's better than nothing, but it's not what we should be doing.

People need to understand that this is not going to solve any problems for anybody over August, other than the political problem that they have where they go home and can't point to anything that got done, so they'll be able to say they voted for a bill.

This bill is not going anyplace in the other body. They have passed through the other body a bipartisan bill that has a better disaster provision in it than what we're considering here today. Their position is my position, and that is that we should be moving this bill and getting it enacted into law.

So, out of my friendship and respect for the chairman, I am supporting this bill. But I think he'll probably agree with me that we need to get this bill to conference. We need to get it moved. We need to get it done so we can get it in place by September 30, so producers can get what they really need out of this bill, and that is a long-term policy they know they can count on.

So I ask my colleagues to support this legislation, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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