Farm Bill becomes House campaign issue

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More than 100 federal farm programs that provided $2.3 billion to farmers across the country this year will expire at the end of the month, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
That became a certainty Friday, when the House recessed until the week after Election Day without considering a five-year reauthorization of the farm programs.
Both the farm bill the House Agriculture Committee approved in July and the farm bill the Senate passed in a bipartisan 64-35 vote in June were kept off the House floor by House Republican leaders.
Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter of Fairport tried to break the impasse earlier this week by proposing that the farm bill be added to Thursday’s floor schedule. Her proposal failed in the Rules Committee in an 8-2 vote.
“They had an absolute opportunity to put it on the floor,’’ Slaughter said in an interview Friday.
Many of the expired programs will continue to operate under a six-month stopgap budget agreement that will keep government agencies running through the end of March.
But dairy farmers will lose their federal financial assistance through the MILC program.
That won’t be a significant financial setback, according to Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, top-ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee. A dairy farmer with 100 cows might lose a $200 federal payment next month, he said.
Peterson, who represents a district heavily populated by dairy farms, said the expiration of the MILC program should be less of an issue for New York dairy farmers than the failure to enact a new dairy security program that allows them to buy margin insurance against a rise in feed costs.
Peterson said he plans to lead Democratic efforts to oppose a temporary extension of the current farm bill when the lame-duck session convenes after Veterans Day.
Republican House members from upstate and Hudson Valley districts where agriculture is a major industry downplayed the impact of the impasse on their re-election campaigns.
Two Democrats challenging Republican House incumbents — Julian Schreibman in the Hudson Valley and Nate Shinagawa in the Southern Tier — seized on the issue Friday as an example of the GOP’s inability to govern.
“If there’s no action, we need new leadership in Congress that will stay until the job is done,’’ said Shinagawa, who is challenging Reed in a Southern Tier district that stretches from Ithaca to Jamestown.
Schreibman said inaction would have “a devastating effect’’ on family farms.
“After last year’s floods and this year’s droughts, farmers across this country, and especially here in upstate New York, are struggling, and need Congress to act,” he said.
Schreibman is challenging freshman Republican Rep. Chris Gibson in an upper Hudson Valley-Catskill district.
Gibson, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, said he signed an unsuccessful petition to force a floor vote on the farm bill and lobbied his colleagues to support passage of the bill.
“I am disappointed, but I am not going to give up,’’ Gibson said. He expressed hopes the House will consider the legislation during the lame-duck session.
Gibson and other upstate Republicans said their local farmers understand the lawmakers individually did not cause the impasse.
Rep. Richard Hanna of Oneida County said the failure to vote on a farm bill was “very disappointing, especially in upstate New York where 80 percent of our economy is directly or indirectly affected by farming.’’
What will he tell farmers in his district?
“You tell them that you regret it and that you did everything you could to change that,’’ Hanna said. “We certainly have talked to leadership, but at the end of the day a single member only has so much influence.’’

Rep. Nan Hayworth, R-Bedford, did not respond to requests for comment.

 

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