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King talks farm bill

By Staff | Aug 3, 2012

By LARRY

KERSHNER

kersh@farm-news.com

FORT DODGE – Among the farming interest groups calling for the U.S. House to pass its version of the farm bill before the August recess, add the voice of Rep. Steve King, (R-Iowa), who said he’s not sure why the Republican leadership refuses to debate the bill on the House floor.

“As I have said for months, we need a farm bill,” King said. “Farmers and producers rely on the predictability that a farm bill provides to make decisions about their operations for next year.

“Current authorization for federal farm programs will expire on Sept. 30. This would be a troubling situation in any year, but with the record drought that’s currently scorching Iowa and so many other states, the need for a farm bill – and the disaster assistance programs contained within it – is critical.”

King, a member of the House ag committee, added an amendment onto the House’s version two weeks ago prohibiting states from regulating how ag products are produced that come in from other states.

King was in Fort Dodge Monday speaking to the Noon Rotary Club. He told The Messenger that despite all the calls for passing the House version of the bill, it now appears that there will be a one-year extension to the existing 2008 farm bill with new drought-relief programs attached.

“Whatever the motives,” King said, concerning GOP leadership blocking the bill’s floor debate, “there will be a House-passed bill,” but it’s likely to be following the 2012 elections.

King said he is “being forced” to vote for the one-year extension. He said there can be no conference with the Senate’s version of the farm bill without a House-approved bill.

If the House votes for a one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill, the Senate would have to vote for an extension and that would be passed on for the president’s signature.

National Corn Growers Association President Garry Niemeyer released on July 27 a statementt in response to extending the farm bill for another year.

“America’s farmers need a new farm bill that will allow them the ability to make sound business decisions for the next five years,” said Niemeyer, an Auburn, Ill., farmer. “An extension of current law fails to provide the needed level of certainty.

“The National Corn Growers Association has strongly advocated programs, such as direct payments, be reformed into more efficient farm policy that will be responsive to taxpayers.”

King noted that farmers agreed to forego direct payments from the farm bill to lower the farm bill’s cost. Reductions were also made to nutritional programs, such as food stamps and WIC.

“We,” King said referring to the ag committee, “were told that if we have a bipartisan farm bill, with minimum opposition, then we’d get floor debate on it.

“We did that, but the leadership then said there’s not enough time to debate it on the floor.

King said leadership claims it didn’t have enough votes. However, he said he conducted his own floor canvass and found “four dozen votes among Democrats alone.

“I told leadership they’d have to have 70 solid no votes” to defeat the farm bill. He maintains there are not 70 opposition votes in the House.

When asked if GOP leadership was blocking the farm bill prior to November’s election to make the president look ineffective and hurt his re-election chances, King said he has heard no such comments

“In fact,” he said, “there’s more vulnerability in the House (among voters) by not acting.”

King’s amendment

Calling the current trend of some states from demanding ag products to be produced in certain ways -such as cage-free eggs or gestation-crate free hogs – as trade protectionism, King won approval of the amendment prior to the House version passing out of committee.

The Constitution reserves the regulation of interstate commerce to the Congress and prohibits it to the states for that very reason, King wrote on his website, “because they didn’t want to set up trade wars between the states.

“Now we are seeing this emerge in the ag community, with regulations of gestation crates, stalls for veal calves, how you feed ducks and geese for liver, the egg piece, and it will be broilers next.”

For example, he said, requiring egg producers to double the size of cages will add cost to production, smaller producers would be able to compete and raise the price of eggs.

He said the amendment would prevent states from regulating other states on manufacture of ethanol, beef, poultry and eggs.

He said his amendment would not include food franchises being boycotted over ag processes. It’s different issue.

“If that language stays in,” King said, “it will cut the agreement between egg producers and the Humane Society of the United States.”

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