Farmers, Congressman Hopeful For Farm Bill Passage

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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Friday, September 28, 2012

A Kansas Congressman is hopeful Congress will still pass a new farm bill before the end of this year. However, some farmers are less optimistic.

The current farm bill, passed in 2008, is set to expire at midnight on Sept. 30. Farm policy will then revert to permanent laws passed in 1949 and 1938.

U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo told farmers and agribusiness leaders gathered at a luncheon of the Agribusiness Council of Wichita Friday he believes Congress can find enough middle ground to to pass a farm bill this year.

"I think there's a pretty good chance that sometime between Election Day and the end of the year, a farm bill is taken up in the House and, ultimately, moved through the legislature," Pompeo said.

Sedgwick County farmer Mic Rausch is not as optimistic.

"It's going to be a lame duck Congress," he said. "You don't really know what's going to happen."

Congress left Washington, D.C., on a seven-week recess without passing a new farm bill or extending the one set to expire.

That leaves food producers in an uncertain spot.

"How do we make decisions on proceeding forward when we don't have a clue what they're going to be writing here in the next farm bill," Rausch asked.

The term farm bill is a bit of a misnomer.

About 80 percent of spending in the nearly $1 trillion measure goes toward food stamps and other nutrition programs. Those programs are holding the bill up in the House.

That chamber's version of the bill cuts food stamp spending by two percent. In an election year, Democrats do not want any cuts made to the programs; Republicans want deeper cuts than those contained in the measure.

"We need to do more work to make sure that we have an appropriate nutrition program and not the one that we have today," Pompeo said.

The U.S. Senate passed its version of the farm bill in June, in a bipartisan 64-35 vote. That bill cut agriculture spending by $23.6 billion, including a cut of about $4.5 billion from food stamps.

House leaders were reluctant to bring nearly $1 trillion dollars of spending up before the November election.

Farmers, meanwhile, are fetching good prices for their commodities, but, Rausch said, that does not mean they are getting rich.

"Commodity prices are driven by supply and demand," he said. "With the drought this year, we didn't have the crop that we normally raise, so we're getting a high price, but we're not really seeing the benefit of that because our production is so much lower."

Prices for production inputs such as fuel and fertilizer are higher now, too, Rausch pointed out.

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