Roberts Praises Farm Bill Now on Hill, Blunt & McCaskill Join In

St. Joseph News press via
Kansas Senator Pat Roberts is praising the new Farm Bill now churning through Congress as the kid of reform Congress always talks about but rarely delivers.
The St. Joseph News press reports, ““This is a reform bill,” Mr. Roberts said on the Senate floor last week. “No other committee, in the House or Senate, has voluntarily undertaken programmatic and funding reforms at this level in this budget climate.”
Mr. Roberts said the legislation rolls four commodity programs into one, streamlines 23 conservation programs into 13, eliminates five forestry programs and squeezes out 16 different line items in rural development programs.
Karla Thieman, who grew up on a Lafayette County cattle farm before going to Washington for three years to serve as a staff member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the initial directive in crafting the bill was to ferret out program redundancies, find resource savings and keep the farm safety net in place.
“We didn’t want to lose the tools in the toolbox,” said Ms. Thieman, back in Missouri to direct the Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign. “We created a more user-friendly Farm Bill.”
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill said the reforms extend to the way agricultural producers get federal assistance.
“We’re going to stop paying farmers direct payments when prices are high,” the Democratic senator said Tuesday. “We’re going to make sure that there is an important safety net under our producers. We’re going to limit the amount of payments that farmers can receive.”
Not every observer celebrated the reforms and acknowledged the savings. Christine Harbin, a policy analyst for Americans for Prosperity, said Farm Bill spending almost doubled between 2008 and 2011, up to $98 billion a year, including a steep increase in the federal food stamp program.
“Lawmakers are now patting themselves on the back for locking in those huge increases and then cutting a little bit around the edges,” she wrote in The Hill.
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt said if the new Farm Bill goes into effect on Oct. 1, savings will begin to be realized and agricultural interests will have more certainty about federal programs.
“Every day the Farm Bill is extended, you’re extending a Farm Bill that spends a couple of billion more dollars annually,” the Republican senator said in a conference call last week.
He remains cautiously optimistic the measure will be approved.
“We’ll just see,” Mr. Blunt said. “This is not a Congress that’s shown a lot of ability to get things done.”

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