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Heitkamp urges House to reconsider vote on farm bill

BISMARCK -- U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said Monday that the House needs to reconsider its vote Thursday that defeated one of two proposed farm bills.

Heitkamp, D-N.D., joined Michael Scuse, acting deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Gov. Jack Dalrymple at Bismarck State College to hear concerns from representatives of the agriculture community during a roundtable discussion.

Both Heitkamp and Scuse showed their frustration over last week's House vote that effectively stopped progress on passing the farm bill, which is the largest policy-setting agricultural bill. The U.S. Senate passed its version of the farm bill June 10.

Heitkamp said if the House can't reconsider its vote, it should try to pass the Senate version.

"We had real reforms with real dollar savings. All of that will not be realized if we go to an extension and don't pass a farm bill," she said, as the 2008 farm bill will expire Sept. 30. "Not only is it shortsighted in terms of taking an industry today that is performing better than any other industry in America, now you're not realizing real savings that were inherent in either version of this bill."

Scuse said he was shocked the farm bill failed, adding that the country can't afford another extension.

"I'm extremely disappointed, it's not fair to farmers, ranchers and consumers," he said. "For them to think about another extension is just ridiculous. Hopefully the House will chart a new course to get something done."

He said one in 12 jobs is agriculture-related and the last four years saw $500 billion in agricultural trade, with this year on par to hit a record $140 billion, if not more.

Heitkamp left the roundtable early to get back to Washington to make the vote over a large immigration reform bill, which Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., has been at the forefront of lobbying for.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.