Braley says farm bill faces unique challenges
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 06/25/2012 1:58 PM
STRAWBERRY POINT, Iowa —As Congress works on the farm bill, U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, a Waterloo Democrat, is getting input from those who will be affected by the legislation.
Braley told partcipants in a listening session at the Strawberry Point Public Library last week that a growing number of voices at the farm bill table at the same time that states like Iowa have fewer votes.
"Because of all the interests affected, it makes putting together a farm bill a much more unique challenge under the best of times and in these current economic times that we're in, it's an even greater challenge," Braley said.
The Senate has taken the lead, passing its proposal out of the ag committee.
"It's certainly not a perfect bill, but a lot of people who look at the obstacles we have to getting any farm bill passed in this environment have indicated it's a good starting point for the conversation," Braley said.
The House hasn't begun to mark up a bill in its ag committee.
"We have a significant challenge in the House because we have passed a budget bill that has dramatically cut funding for the nutrition portion of the farm bill," Braley said. "Finding the 218 votes to get a farm bill passed will be a significant challenge."
Braley sent a letter to the speaker of the House and the leaders in the Democratic Caucus urging them not to wait and bring this bill to the floor after the election in a lame duck session.
"They're already talking about moving a lot of these important economic votes into the lame duck session," Braley said. "The worst thing that could happen for a farm bill is to try to cram that important conversation in when people are already rushing to make a lot of other important decisions, and we know that Congress is going to turn over and change. That's why we need to get this done sooner rather than later, and that's why I've been doing these listening stops."
Braley said dramatic budget cuts will take place across the board unless Congress "gets its act together and agrees on what budget reductions should look like."
"It would be foolish to assume there are not going to be shortfalls in farm programs like the Conservation Security Program," Braley said. "You get into this reflexive thing of saying that everyone needs to take a haircut, and you leave people without the necessary resources to implement what could have been a very good program."
Phil Specht, a McGregor dairy farmer, asked if it is a done deal that the crop insurance subsidy is going to be the safety net for agriculture.
"Nothing is a done deal given the dynamics we're facing," Braley said. "When you take such a huge hit in the nutrition programs, every title in that bill will be fought over because people will be looking for a way to reach a compromise."