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Rohwer said it is time to pass farm bill

By Jean Caspers-Simmet
simmet@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 11/28/2012 8:32 AM

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PAULLINA, Iowa —With the election over, Iowa Corn Growers Association president Bruce Rohwer's attention turns to Congress and passage of a new a farm bill.

"With the farm bill expiring, there are many aspects of the farm bill that do not have funding," said Rohwer, who farms near Paullina.

The Foreign Market Development Program and the Market Access Program lost their funding Sept. 30.

"The U.S. Grains Council, which works with these programs and has staff around the world to help with our exports, is working to keep their people in place while we're in this limbo of not having a current farm bill," Rohwer said.

Favorable weather and bumper crops will return.

"That coin will turn over, and we will need all the markets we can get," Rohwer said. "The other aspect is that agriculture's fortunes are frequently best when exports are best. When agriculture does well our small towns do well."

The Milk Income Loss Contract program ended for dairy farmers, and new conservation and research programs can't be implemented without a new farm bill.

"Research has been easy to cut," Rohwer said. "You look at what we were able to produce during the drought, and it shows the benefit of research. We need to make sure we don't lose that ability as we look for the next best answer down the road. Conservation is very important in a short moisture year. The better the soil quality, the better we're able to efficiently retain the moisture Mother Nature gives us. We need to make sure we have the ability to enact conservation programs."

The Senate passed a farm bill and he House Agriculture Committee passed its version.

"But because of politics within House leadership, the farm bill has not come to the floor," Rohwer said. "There is no reason to delay any further."

Plenty of other issues will demand congressional action in the coming months.

"The House could bring the farm bill to the floor, pass it, send it to conference committee for a few days and then farmers know where they stand for the next five years," Rohwer said.

He can't say if the farm bill will come up in the lame duck session.

"It seems that Republican leadership is trying to deal with the Tea Party faction, and their goals and tactics are different than what we've seen in the past," Rohwer said. "Will the election get them to behave more like political parties have done in the past where they come together for the good of the country or will we see the Tea Party become more entrenched in their desire to have it their way and no other way?"

A good example of Republicans and Democrats working together involved President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie getting together after Hurricane Sandy, Rohwer said.

All members of Iowa's congressional delegation want to see the farm bill enacted.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat, introduced a discharge petition to bring the farm bill to the floor, and Reps. Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell, both Democrats, and Republican Rep. Tom Latham signed the discharge petition. Rep. Steve King, a Republican, didn't want to go against the leadership and spoil his chances to be on the farm bill conference committee, Rohwer said.

"It's a difference in tactics, but if the bill doesn't make it to the House floor, there's no conference," he said.