Working on a farm bill in a “different” town

By Matt Reese

Things are different in Washington, D.C. these days.

John Davis, with the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, holds a magnet puzzle that highlights key points in the farm bill. He and other OCWGA members are handing them out to congressional leaders in Washington, D.C. on a mission trip this week.

“It’s a different town since the last election. The right is further right and the left is further left,” said Jon Doggett, the National Corn Growers Association vice president of public policy. “The Tea Party is pushing Republicans further right. The same thing, but maybe not to the same degree, is happening with the left. Things are really changing. This is the biggest change I’ve seen in the 25 years I’ve been in Washington.”

The budget is the bottom line and has polarized the opposing sides of the debate.

“We have deficit spending out as far as the eye can see. Forty-two cents of every dollar we spend is borrowed and that is only going up. The Republicans are going to push hard to get Bush tax cuts extended,” Doggett said. “The rhetoric is going to be tax and spend Democrats verses ‘kill grandma by cutting social security’ Republicans. We have to prioritize a list of what we need, not what we want.”

With the different climate on Capitol Hill, there is concern about the farm bill moving forward.

“We hope that the House and Senate ag committees will complete their action early in the summer. I think they will come up with a good bill. I have confidence in the abilities of the chairman and the members to get a good bill,” Doggett said. “The problem is when we go to the floor, particularly the floor of the House of Representatives. We may see a very different farm bill emerge from that process and one that we’re going to have to take a hard look at to see if it is worth moving forward on.”

In the farm bill development process, the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association and the NCGA are working to protect crop insurance, support the Aggregate Revenue Risk Management program that is a simplified revenue-based safety net that only pays when there is a loss, move away from direct payments, enhance other risk management tools and keep conservation programs voluntary.

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