Local Farmers Weigh In on Future of Federal Farm Bill - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Local Farmers Weigh In on Future of Federal Farm Bill

Updated: Aug 27, 2013 10:13 PM

Time is quickly running out for federal lawmakers to pass a Farm Bill. The latest extension on the current bill runs out September 30.

And, Congress has its work cut out for it if it's going to pass the legislation in time.

The House and Senate have each passed their own versions of the Farm Bill this year -- It's massive piece of legislation, covering everything from farm subsidies to food stamps.

But, the House and Senate bills are very different from each other and finding a compromise has proven to be a major challenge:

"They're pieces of works in D.C.," laughed Clinton County Farm Bureau Board Member Curt Allen.

Allen says those "pieces of work" in Washington, as he puts it, are making his work as a farmer that much more difficult.

"The further ahead you can plan, the easier business planning is, and when there's uncertainty in the air, it always makes you uneasy," he said.

Allen is one of a handful of local farmers sitting down with Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack this week. The Farm Bill Forum in DeWitt, Iowa, Monday was an informal conversation, talking about agriculture issues over lemonade and cookies - a chance to ask questions and give input about what the Farm Bill should include:

"We definitely want to maintain our crop insurance program," Allen said, "On a year like last year and this year, we find out if that can make a difference between staying in business and not."

But, right now, the crop insurance program is among many ag issues still tied up in Congress with the Farm Bill debate.

"In my opinion, we're not going any place with it right now," said Jerome Burken, a farmer who grows corn and soybeans near Elvira, Iowa.

"It's too bad we've got to wait way til the end," he added.

One of the biggest sticking points is the food stamps program.

The Senate's version of the Farm Bill would cut $40 billion from food stamps funding over the next ten years. The House tried and failed to pass a Farm Bill that would cut $400 billion over the same period.

In July, the House passed a farm-only Farm Bill, taking the nutrition program provisions out completely.

But the general consensus among farmers and Iowa legislators is that separating the farm provisions from food stamps is not a good idea:

"Here in Iowa, all of the congressional delegation agrees that it is really not practical to separate the two, that the only way to get a Farm Bill is to keep those two combined," explained Rep. Loebsack (D-2nd Congressional District).

"Being a minority, it would probably be very easy for them to throw the whole thing away on the agriculture side if we were not tied to the nutritional program," agreed Allen.

Now, the agriculture side is saying it's anxious to see a comprehensive Farm Bill finally passed.

Congress will have just nine legislative days to reach a compromise on the Farm Bill when they return from the August recess.

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