House ag committee passes farm billThe U.S. Congressional House Committee on Agriculture approved the farm bill Thursday by a vote of 35-11. The House bill would slash spending by $35 billion over 10 years. The farm bill is what makes it possible for farmers in North Dakota and across the country to provide a “safe, secure food supply”, said Woody Barth, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union in Jamestown, which hosted a public meeting Tuesday at the pavilion in Belfield.
By: Betsy Simon, The Dickinson Press
The U.S. Congressional House Committee on
Agriculture approved the farm bill Thursday by a vote of 35-11.
The House bill would slash spending by $35 billion over 10 years.
The farm bill is what makes it possible for farmers in North Dakota and across the country to provide a “safe, secure food supply”, said Woody Barth, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union in Jamestown, which hosted a public meeting Tuesday at the pavilion in Belfield.
“There are other countries that want what we have in the farm bill because it provides a process that makes sure that we have a secure bill that allows farmers to produce a secure food supply to feed the world,” Barth said.
The North Dakota Farmers Union hosted six public forums across the state this week ahead of the House vote.
Barth said the North Dakota Farmers Union is more satisfied with the Senate version, which would cut $23.6 billion in
spending over 10 years.
Panelists Scott Stofferahn, state director for U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. Tom Nelson, state director for U.S. Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., Tom Brusegaard, state director for U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Bob Christman, senior policy and agriculture adviser for Berg and former extension agent for Stark and Billings counties, who were each able to offer the attendees their prospective and input on the proposal.
The farm bill, which Brusegaard estimated makes up about one-quarter of 1 percent of the federal government’s budget, sets the agricultural and food policy for the U.S. and is reauthorized by the U.S. Congress every five years.
Subcommittees also held a series of field hearings during the months of April and May of this year, in order to allow
agricultural officials and others to be allowed time to give their input and voice their thoughts on policies that they felt should have priority in the legislation before the final version of the bill was drafted.
The hearings also allowed House committee members to hear from people in the field.
The bill will now have to go before to the for floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, where it be voted on by the full House.
When a final version of the farm bill is finally passed and signed by the President, it will remain in effect through fiscal year 2017.
“You always hear people talk about Washington not working, but the farm bill is evidence of how lawmakers in Washington D.C. are supposed to work together,” Brusegaard said. “It is easy to say that nothing in Washington, D.C. works, but that’s not true with the agriculture committee. I think the agriculture committee works well together and they work hard for farmers.”
The current farm bill is set to expire Sept. 30.
That is why Stofferahn said he would like to see Congress pass a new bill passed before the general election in
“It could be a big challenge to pass the farm bill because the political dynamics are different now than they have been in the past,” he said. “If the election results in a divided government, it is more likely that a new farm bill will not be passed until the lame duck session. I
predict, though, that if one party sweeps the election, they might just say that they will start over after the first of the year.
“I would not like to see that happen because it could mean that the bill will be subject to more reductions.”
Christman said he also would like to see the bill go to the House before Congress goes on August recess.
“Farm state folks would like the bill go to the floor before their August recess, but it would held the winter wheat producers,” he said.
Barth, who also farms east of Flasher, said one of the most common misconceptions that the public has about the farm bill is that it simply goes to
paying farmers for their work in the fields.
The truth is, he said, more than 80 percent of the
appropriations in the farm bill go toward nutrition programs for the public, which makes the farm bill important to the entire country as a whole.
“(North Dakota Farmers Union) will stay in contact with people as the bill goes forward and waits to be passed and signed by the President.”
Passage of the farm bill is key to keeping agricultural viable for any producer, said James Kerzman of Mott.
Kerzman has farmed near Mott for more than 40 years, and he said the last farm bill that was pass was one of the best farm bills that he has seen passed by lawmakers and put into law since he began farming.
“The farm bill can get
political quick, but farmers need the safety net it provides to help us continue growing,” he said. “There’s a risk that comes with
farming today, so farmers need to have something to fall back on, and the guaranteed base that the farm bill allows farmers to continue growing.”
Art Dohrmann of Bismarck said the farm bill allows him to be the productive food producer he has become today, which in turn is a benefit to the people who consumer what he
“It keeps farmers from being locked into farming what their fathers and grandfathers farmed on the land before them,” he said. “I would never be able to farm without this bill, and now I’ll just have to wait and see what the Congress will provide us in the new bill.”