Weather, Water...and Congress: Challenges for the American Farmer
Growing up on the farm, I remember the days when our major concerns for the next growing season were the weather and water. Whether Congress was going to pass a Farm Bill was far from our minds when wondering if we could plant our crops or market our cattle.
There has always been a bipartisan effort in Congress to set policy that will enable our farmers and ranchers to continue producing high quality, affordable food for our country and the world. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case today and tragically, the American farmer may suffer for it.
The 2002 Farm Bill expired on September 30, 2007; however, Congress had not completed work on a new farm bill at that time and as a result has been forced to pass multiple short-term extensions to keep essential farm policy in place. Though the House passed its version of a new farm bill last July, and the Senate followed suit in December, Congress has been unable to resolve differences between the bills. Now, in April, we are still left without a final answer regarding future farm policy. Why?
Both sides of the aisle are to blame, as we have simply been unable to come together and make the tough decisions necessary to set policy for American agriculture. Shame on Congress for becoming so ineffective that we cannot even grapple with the big and responsible basic public policy issues of our country. American agriculture is something we should all support, and our party differences should not be getting in the way of planting crops in America's fields.
I objected initially to the latest one-week extension of current farm policy because I believe farmers in Idaho and around the country deserve better. I believe they deserve solid farm policy that gives them the certainty they need to make planting and marketing decisions for this year and into the future. After being assured that the House and Senate Agriculture Committees can come to an agreement, I agreed to the latest extension, vowing that it will be the last short-term extension I can support. I can no longer support putting the American farmer on hold.
A tremendous amount of effort has gone into creating the new farm policy that remains on the table. The bills passed by both the House and Senate contain countless new provisions that will benefit our farmers, ranchers, rural communities and consumers everywhere. I have worked for many years to include provisions in this new bill that recognize the important contribution of the specialty crop industry to our agricultural economy and to the health of our country. And I have been pleased to report our success in including those specialty crop provisions in the House and Senate-passed bills, along with significant improvements in commodity programs, conservation, nutrition, disaster assistance, renewable energy programs, and countless others.
I, along with American agriculture, want to see this new farm bill come to completion. I hope that my House and Senate colleagues will continue their arduous work to negotiate the remaining differences between the two bills. However, if no agreement is made by April 25, I will refuse to silently allow leaving our farmers and ranchers in further limbo, but will demand that the Senate debate and vote on any proposed additional short-term extension.
Sometimes a frost comes late and sometimes a drought is severe. Farmers can never tell if Mother Nature will be a friend or foe from one year to another. But we should be able to depend on Congress' ability to work together in the best interest of agriculture.
I hope Congress can get its act together and do the right thing for American agriculture�and that is to negotiate in good faith and make the tough decisions necessary to pass a new farm bill.