Peterson Slams House GOP Leaders for Blocking Farm Bill Progress

December 23, 2012 08:30 PM
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Feisty comments in interview with Minneapolis Star

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), ranking member on the House Ag Committee, left no doubt as to the reason for the bogged down farm bill: House GOP leadership.

In an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune (link), Peterson said election-year politics and now fiscal cliff negotiations involving House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Obama kept the farm bill off the House floor.

We had hostility from Republican leadership and some rank-and-file before the election,” Peterson said. “We had it after the election. I don't think much changed. The problem now is that they've run us out of time. To get this bill done by the end of the year, the only way to do it is to put it in whatever they come up with [for a deficit deal]. That has shifted the power from us to Obama and Boehner, which makes us very nervous ... They're both fixated on just cutting money without regard to the long-term policy implications. ... There's talk that they're going to eliminate direct payments [subsidies to farmers] and extend the rest [of the expiring farm bill].”

Asked about House GOP strategy, Peterson opined that Republican leaders are “placating the right wing of their caucus that doesn't like spending money on anything. Some of them don't like the farm bill. Boehner and [House Majority Leader] Eric Cantor don't like the farm bill.”

Recalling a similar budget-related farm bill exercise via the 1996 Farm Bill, Peterson said, “That shows you what happens when you get hijacked by ideologues. We're in that kind of situation again. Prices are high. They've been high. Farmers [are] making a lot of money ... These prices will go down. The only question is when ... We don't think the government should be paying people money when they're doing nothing. So we're getting rid of direct payments. But we want to go to a system that is based on what you actually plant ... It puts in some kind of a floor under these prices in case they collapse ... It's not enough to distort the marketplace. But it's enough to keep [farmers] in business for a year or two if things really collapse.”

Asked if the farm bill delays will make U.S. farmers vulnerable, Peterson said, “As long as they have crop insurance, they're going to survive ... I'm talking about the guy who has 1,500 acres to 2,000 acres. A lot of time that's a kid who just started five years ago. The only reason he's farming is because he's got crop insurance and he's got these other safety nets he can take to the bank. And the bank can see, well, if the crop fails or the prices collapse, this guy's going to have enough to pay back his operating loan. You eliminate that and the only people who will be able to farm are people with deep pockets. And you will consolidate agriculture like nothing you have ever seen. And that's not a good thing.”

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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