Delegation spokesmen: Farm bill debate delayedDebate on the next version of the farm bill has been delayed while Washington deals with debt and deficits, according to spokesmen for the North Dakota congressional delegation. The representatives addressed the status of debate on the next farm bill during a meeting hosted by the North Dakota Farmers Union in Carrington, N.D., Thursday.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
Debate on the next version of the farm bill has been delayed while Washington deals with debt and deficits, according to spokesmen for the North Dakota congressional delegation.
The representatives addressed the status of debate on the next farm bill during a meeting hosted by the North Dakota Farmers Union in Carrington, N.D., Thursday.
The current farm bill expires at the end of 2012 and debate has not been started on a new version at this time. At stake is up to $1 billion in farm program spending for North Dakota.
“The debate has been deliberately delayed,” said Shane Goettle, state director for Sen. John Hoeven. “The discussion is delayed until fall of 2011. There is too much attention on the budget and debt at this time. This moves the timeline for this bill behind where we were with the 2008 farm bill at this time.”
That concerns Scott Stofferahn, state director for Sen. Kent Conrad.
“I’m worried the budget discussion may rewrite the farm bill before it’s even debated,” he said. “And by late spring 2012 national politics will make it difficult to move forward.”
The campaign for the 2012 general election will be under way by late in the spring, Stofferahn said.
Tom Nelson, state director for Rep. Rick Berg, said the debt debate should take top priority.
“It is important to work on the farm bill coming up,” he said. “It needs to have a safety net but we need to have a strong economy to fund it. I don’t want to be doom and gloom, but with the exception of the weather, farmers are doing pretty good.”
All three spokesmen spoke in favor of the crop insurance program and the permanent disaster programs that form the “safety net” that protects farmers against natural disasters and low prices.
“Hoeven has four principles he wants to see in the farm bill,” Goettle said. “A strong safety net so farmers can mitigate and manage risk, new markets, research and disaster assistance.
But Goettle sees challenges to getting every item on the wish list.
“The political environment is tough,” he said. “The country faces an enormous challenge of debt. Those in the business of agriculture must see a proportionate cut while some are calling for deeper cuts.”
Total payments to production agriculture in North Dakota were more than $950 million in 2010, according to Aaron Krauter, director, Farm Service Agency for North Dakota. The Stutsman County portion amounted to $28 million.
Krauter said farm programs amount to about one-quarter of 1 percent of the federal budget. However, it is attracting a lot of attention in the budget debate.
“It used to be only farm groups and farm state legislators involved in creating a farm bill,” Stofferahn said. “Now many environmental and political groups are involved. Everybody is gearing up and the political environment is not good.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org