Support or opposition to passage of the new Farm Bill marks one of the major differences Minnesota's First Congressional race between U.S. Representative Tim Walz and Republican challenger Allen Quist.
Walz and Quist: clear contrast on Farm Bill
In the Farmfest congressional forum in early August 2012, Walz--who worked on the bill as a member of the House Ag committee--urged passage, especially in light of the drought that many American farmers face. Quist, a Nicollet County farmer, urged starting over, since he favors uncoupling food support (traditionally known as food stamps) from farm policy. Forum Communications staff writer Don Davis reported in Ag Week:
Quist made the most outspoken remarks of the six on the Farmfest panel, disputing others who support a bipartisan House farm bill.
“There is no farm bill,” he declared. “There’s a food stamp bill with a farm rider.”
Quist claimed that 80 percent of the bill’s funding would go to food stamps, with just a little for farmers.
“The food stamp portion is so bad,” Quist said, that he could not vote for the bill.
Walz drew rare applause from the farm group when he reminded Quist that most of those who receive food stamps are older than 65 and younger than 3.
Of the candidates, Walz was the strongest farm bill supporter, especially because it continues a crop insurance program.
“All of you know, you can’t control the weather,” Walz said. “Pass the farm bill now.
A version of the bill was passed by the Senate earlier this year.
Farming is a BFD in RFD Southern Minnesota, where grain, livestock, dairy and vegetable production support a bevy of bucolic small towns. The local food movement has also spurred small farms and farm markets; wind farms, ethanol plants and food processing (from pork slaughtering at JBS Swift in Worthington and Hormel in Austin to canning plants in Montgomery and Blue Earth). Of course food, fibre and fuel aren't the district's only economic drivers--there's a lot of Mayo to go with that ham.
The Farm Bill Now Coalition
Now Walz' congressional office has issued a statement praising a broad coalition of ag groups urging passage of the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill Now Coalition includes a spectrum, AgriMarketing reported yesterday:
The coalition, called Farm Bill Now, comprises associations and coalitions representing commodity crops, livestock, dairy, specialty crops, state and local governments, minor crops, energy and biobased product groups, farm cooperatives and financial groups, as well as the nation's two largest farm groups, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union. Each organization has strong and distinct policy priorities, yet all 39 are committed to passing a new, comprehensive bill this year.
Today, the group issues the following statement, titled "Why We Need a Farm Bill", on the importance of new farm legislation for America's farmers:
"Calling the farm bill the 'farm bill' suggests its impact is limited only to farms and to the rural areas to which they are so closely tied. It's really a jobs bill. A food bill. A conservation bill. A research bill. An energy bill. A trade bill. In other words, it's a bill that affects every American.
"The farm bill affects our nation's ability to provide the necessities of life for a global population projected to pass 9 billion by 2050. Here at home, it affects an industry that provides 23 million-or 1 in every 12-American jobs.
Given Quist's opposition to passing the Farm Bill, it's unlikely that the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation PAC will endorse him, as passing the Farm Bill is lead priority for the group. The organization declined to endorse a candidate in CD1 on 2010; only Collin Peterson was endorsed among Minnesota Democrats. The Minnesota Farmers Union PAC announced its endorsement of Walz at Farmfest.
Bluestem will watch to see what the Farm Bureau decides.
Walz responds to Coalition
Here's the release from Walz's congressional office:
Photo: Why is Congressman Walz smiling?
Walz Applauds Formation of “Farm Bill Now” Coalition
Thirty-nine of the nation’s leading agricultural organizations have joined forces to urge Congress to pass the five-year farm bill
Mankato, MN – Today, Congressman Tim Walz applauded the formation of the Farm Bill Now coalition. According to a press release, the Farm Bill Now coalition is comprised of thirty-nine of the nation’s leading agricultural organizations. These organizations are all working together towards the same goal of raising public awareness and pushing Congress to pass the five-year Farm Bill.
“I applaud and thank these organizations for joining forces to raise awareness about the need for Congress to pass a five-year Farm Bill before October,” said Walz, a member of the House Agriculture Committee. “Whether it comes in the form of steady, dependable prices at the grocery store or relief for drought stricken farmers, the Farm Bill affects and gives certainty to everyone. Congress needs to get its chores done. We need a five-year Farm Bill now. Rural America—and the rest of the country—can’t wait.
Walz has advocated strongly for House leadership to bring the five-year Farm Bill forward. The bill passed out of the Agriculture Committee with a strong bipartisan vote of 35-11, but leadership has stonewalled and refused to allow a vote on the five-year bill by the full House of Representatives.
The 2012 Farm Bill is ready to go. And, after hearing directly from southern Minnesotans, includes many of the provisions Congressman Walz authored.
These provisions will:
Make it easier for our youth to take up farming and ranching operations and agriculture entrepreneurship.
Increase energy access in rural America; improving efficiency and reducing input costs for farmers and small businesses.
Ensure farmers have the flexibility to grow a wide array of crops without penalty or fear of losing their insurance.
Save taxpayer dollars, conserve critical wildlife and hunting habitats, while still allowing farmers to manage their lands as they see fit.
Keep shipping costs low for our food and electricity producers by giving local citizens a voice in railroad pricing negotiations.
In addition, the five-year Farm Bill makes the USDA more efficient by streamlining many programs to cut down on unnecessary paperwork and overly burdensome regulations for farmers. It eases access to lines of credit so that farmers who want to expand their business have the tools necessary to do so. And it reforms out-of-date dairy policy and strengthens crop insurance to protect taxpayers while also making sure farmers won’t literally lose the farm if disaster strikes.
The message from rural America is clear: pass the Farm Bill, pass it now.
To read the five-year Farm Bill in its entirety, please click here.