Farm bill: Senate candidates: Farm bill vital to N.D.The two North Dakota candidates for the U.S. Senate agree that the farm bill is vital to the state. “Agriculture is one of the bright spots in the American economy,” said Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D. “Agriculture is creating revenue, jobs and opportunity. The last thing we want is uncertainty.”
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
The two North Dakota candidates for the U.S. Senate agree that the farm bill is vital to the state.
“Agriculture is one of the bright spots in the American economy,” said Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D. “Agriculture is creating revenue, jobs and opportunity. The last thing we want is uncertainty.”
Berg is facing Democrat Heidi Heitkamp for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who is not seeking re-election.
“We want to see Congress pass a farm bill before the deadline,” Heitkamp said. “We have a hardline deadline of Sept. 30 on this.”
Current farm policy is based on the 2008 Farm Bill that expires at the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30. The Senate passed its farm bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, in June. That version has a $500 billion budget over five years.
The House Agriculture Committee, however, has produced a different farm bill — the Federal Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act. That bill has not been acted on by the full House.
“The bill came out of committee but was changed as it came out of committee,” Berg said. “The leadership didn’t feel it had the votes to pass it.”
If the House had passed a version of the farm bill a conference committee would have worked out a compromise version. Without a House version the issue is at a stalemate.
“We’re pulling out the stops,” Berg said. “We are attempting to use a discharge petition. We would need 218 signatures, half of the house, and then it would be required to go to the floor.”
Berg said he is counting on all the Democrats in the House of Representatives and at least 38 of his fellow Republicans to sign the discharge petition.
“The big hangup is a huge hunk of the Republicans in Congress are against crop insurance,” Heitkamp said. “In September these issues will be more political and they will have less time to act.”
Heitkamp also said even if the discharge petition is successful Congress would have only a limited number of days to pass the bill.
“It doesn’t look good but we should be hopeful and helpful,” she said.
Without a farm bill, Berg said it would be difficult for farmers to plan ahead for the next cropping season. Heitkamp is worried the bill could be delayed beyond the end of September.
“It would just go into the mix during the lame duck session after the election,” she said. “If we go into sequestration without the farm bill being passed it would be tough to hold onto the gains we’ve made.”
Sequestration is the across-the-board cuts that will kick in on Jan. 1, 2013, if certain deficit reduction goals aren’t met during the budget process. Without a farm bill in place, Heitkamp speculates some of the appropriations that would have gone to agriculture could be used to offset reductions in defense spending.
The U.S. House of Representatives is in session for eight days in September and five days in October. Its last scheduled session before the election is on Oct. 5.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org