Cramer: Farm bill a ‘major victory for ND agriculture’
The farm bill that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday likely won’t please everyone, but North Dakota’s lone congressman said it has big upside for farmers and ranchers in his state.
“It’s a major victory for North Dakota agriculture,” Cramer said. “Someone made the comment (Tuesday) to me that, at some point, you just have to take the soup off the stove. You can boil it only so long before you boil it down to nothing.”
The bill — officially dubbed the Agriculture Act of 2014 — passed early Wednesday by a vote of 251-166 in the House, setting the stage for an upcoming vote in the Senate, where the bill is expected to pass. A person with knowledge of the situation said a Senate vote could possibly happen this week, but is more likely to take place next week.
Though he said the farm bill package is an overall win for North Dakota, Cramer said he understands the concern from many in the agriculture industry about certain conservation compliance measures tied to crop insurance.
“Many farmers have expressed concerned about the conservation compliance being tied to crop insurance,” Cramer said. “Let me be clear on this — you can still buy crop insurance at full price without the federal subsidy, but the subsidy is 60-plus percent of the premium. So, risk-reward probably doesn’t make sense for most people.”
A product of a needed compromise, Cramer said the crop insurance measure was a necessary evil for the overall bill to gain passage.
“I was hearing from enough people to really have to consider the merits of the bill versus the crop insurance measure,” Cramer said. “The problem is, without the bill, we’re back to the old formula and no reforms whatsoever in the food stamp program. I think we were able to mitigate some of the downside of the conservation compliance tie.”
One of the ways Cramer said that happened was with an added amendment to the compromised bill that was introduced by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.
“The Hoeven amendment ensures that the conservation compliance tie is only forward-looking,” Cramer said. “Originally, Democrats in the Senate wanted it to be retroactive. That was significant. The thing was the language I introduced that ensures that mitigation of wetlands is only on an acre-by-acre basis. To get a little, you have to give a little.”
House Republicans voted 162-63 in favor of the bill while Democrats voted 103-89 against. In a statement sent Wednesday, Hoeven lauded House members for passing the compromised bill (which he helped negotiate) and praised Cramer for his efforts.
“House passage of the federal five-year farm bill is good for our farmers and ranchers and good for American consumers,” Hoeven stated. “I want to commend Congressman Cramer, who worked hard to gain support among his colleagues in the House. In conversation with House leadership, including Speaker John Boehner and Congressman Paul Ryan, I was told that Congressman Cramer worked tirelessly to win support for this key legislation for North Dakota and the nation.”
At the end of the day, Republicans did not get the amount of desired cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or food stamps — but were able to cut $9 billion from the program over 10 years, which represents about a 1 percent overall trim. Overall, the farm bill will trigger $23 billion of cuts over the next decade.
Stating that she “looks forward to signing it,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., expressed her approval as well Wednesday in a statement.
“Getting the House to pass bipartisan legislation like the Farm Bill is a welcome development,” Heitkamp stated. “This compromise bill reduces our deficit by more than $16.6 billion and gives North Dakota farmers and ranchers the certainty they deserve to continue feeding the world.”