Farm bill stuck in political limbo

Oh, what a difference a year makes! About this time last year, farmers were gearing up for a record breaking, early harvest. Contrast that with the current reality: Some wheat is still heading out.

Looking ahead?about six weeks, give or take?and harvest may have begun in June, but it may not be finished before the month?s end.

For this area, the change in the weather pattern may be a good thing. Last year, on our farm, I registered about 4 inches of moisture from the first of the year through the first of September.

Currently, we are in better shape, with aggregate totals already well over that amount. However, according to the latest drought-monitor map, more than two-thirds of our state is still experiencing severe to exceptional drought conditions, including Marion County.

The wheat crop looks good, as well as the corn and alfalfa. There is enough moisture to get other crops established.

As an officer of National Association of Wheat Growers, optimism for the future of the grassroots based organization increases as time passes.

We are in better financial shape than at any time in recent history. We have a capable staff that love what they do?and better yet, they love working for farmers and enjoy their role of advocating for them to a mostly urban audience in Washington, D.C.

After an intensive national search and extensive interviews with qualifying candidates, we have acquired the talents of Jim Palmer, to lead our organization as the chief executive officer.

Having worked with the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, the United Soybean Board and the American Soybean Association, Palmer provides great depth in management skills and ability for working with farmers to advance their interests.

Palmer assumes his post June 1, and the staff and leadership of NAWG welcome him to our organization.

One cannot be as positive on the political front, however. After my last trip to Capitol Hill a little over a week ago, I was hopeful that agriculture would finally get a farm bill through Congress. However, doubt is creeping back onto the political landscape.

Previously, we were hearing from staffers and others that perhaps both sides would set aside their differences and work together for the common good of their constituents.

A once rare, but current mindset was: ?We know what doesn?t work (partisanship), we?ve tried that route before. Perhaps it?s time we take what?s on the table and get this bill passed.?

Last year, it was the party of ?Hell, no!? that controlled the debate, holding farm legislation hostage. Speaker Boehner refused to work outside of party lines to pass legislation.

This year, Boehner and others, fed up with the impasse, and for that reason, receiving blackened eyes and bad reputations for not moving legislation through, decided it was in their best interests to seek a bipartisan majority to get the work done.

Moderate politicians on both sides were ready and willing to do everything in their power to get things done.

That is, until last week, when new revelations regarding the IRS holdup of approving conservative non-profit tax-exempt organizations, the Associated Press phone line subpoenas by the Justice Department, plus the controversy surrounding the Benghazi incident where four U.S. diplomats were killed in a terrorist attack.

Actually, it is too soon to tell how this will play itself out. We will have a clearer picture of the fallout in the next couple of weeks as both houses move approved farm-bill language through for passage, and finally to the joint committee for reconciliation discussions.

That said, the past four months has been quite an experience for yours truly. Though it has been intensive work, it has been very rewarding to visit with many people and farmers across this land and actually get to know many of them and think of them as friends.

Having logged more frequent-flier miles in those months than I did in the previous four years pretty much describes a life of living in airplanes, airline terminals, hotels and taxi cabs, not to mention all the board meetings, meetings with candidates, conference calls, phone calls, texts and e-mails during that time.

One can genuinely say ?been there, done that? when you know each airport terminal like the back of your hand. No more looking around like a lost tourist. I know where the signs and flight schedules are and I walk where I need to go.

That said, I would be traveling to Rapid City, June 28, but wheat harvest takes priority over traveling duties this year.

I may visit there some other time, perhaps as a tourist.






















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