The following are some random thoughts of my experiences of the past month after attending the Farm Bill Now rally in Washington, D.C.
• Why, does Congress reduce the number of work days in a week from five to no more than two or three, at best? I realize that members need time to travel home and meet constituents and conduct town hall meetings. That’s what a recess is for, which often lasts for weeks at a time.
Imagine the scheduling conflicts arising from such a narrow time frame while actually in our nation’s capitol. There are news conferences, staff meetings, committee meetings, meeting with constituents in their D.C. offices, not to mention actually attending an occasional Congressional session that demands their time and attention.
• At the rally, I applauded Sen. Jerry Moran for a great speech, encouraging members of the House to get back to work and pass a new farm bill. It took great courage for him to admonish his Republican friends to actually get something done.
• About 90 grassroots commodity organizations and agribusiness groups were represented by the crowd numbering about 450 people, supporting passage of a new farm bill. In essence, these organizations represented thousands of farmers and ranchers across the nation.
• A bipartisan group of legislators spoke out and encouraged House Speaker John Boehner to move forward on scheduling a vote for the farm bill.
These days, it is a rare event when politicians from both sides of the political aisle come together for a common cause. It was a good thing to know that working together for a common goal is still possible. Mr. Boehner, were you listening?
• Congressman Tim Huelskamp chose not to attend the rally. In fact, he attended another meeting, a news conference defending his vote against the farm bill in the House Agriculture Committee. Rather than meet and discuss ways to move legislation forward, he was unavailable.
• On a related and ironic note, Mr. Huelskamp favors economic jobs creation programs and assistance for businesses, yet opposes farm bill legislation, mostly on grounds that nutrition should not be a part of the farm bill, but also he believes agriculture should not receive any government assistance.
He is trying to dismantle the half-century bipartisan plan surrounding farm bill legislation. Agriculture has been successful in garnering broad-based support by combining urban and rural programs into one legislative package.
• Nutrition programs, even if they were separate from farm programs, would continue expanding their expenditures in the near future. They are authorized by permanent law; unless there is consensus between political parties, nothing changes. Which makes the argument for holding the farm bill hostage, promoted by Mr. Huelskamp and other ultra conservatives, more or less moot.
Nutrition spending would continue without changes even if farm programs went away entirely. Rather than propose legislation that would open the law governing nutrition, due to overwhelming resistance from the Democrats in both Houses, they have chosen to place a vital safety net for our farmers—crop insurance—in jeopardy.
• I did get the opportunity to visit with Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder. No discussion surfaced about his trip that ended in a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee. My focus was to discuss farm issues and how he can help his constituents back home.
I give him good marks for not submitting to Tea Party demands and for signing a bipartisan letter urging Speaker Boehner to schedule a vote on the farm bill.
• Kristi Noem, Republican member of Congress from South Dakota, showed extreme courage in the face of Republican leadership’s opposition by taking the lead in initiating the creation of a discharge petition that would force the leadership to allow a vote on the House floor.
South Dakota farmers have a valiant representative championing their cause.
Kristi Noem Ending on a positive note, I appreciate the effort that our staff at National Association of Wheat Growers has invested in behalf of our nation;s farmers. The same goes for the work of our state association, KAWG, their staff and board of directors and the farmers who pay the bills and give us our marching orders.
Without their tireless dedication and guidance through the years, the extreme drought our farmers have experienced over the past two years would have taken a far greater toll in terms of finances and destroyed many farm families across the Midwest. We have made a difference.